International students: how diverse is Suffolk?

With an international population of 23 percent, according to enrollment, Suffolk seems to be one of the most diverse universities in Boston. Suffolk prides itself on accepting students from over one hundred different countries every year. But do students really benefit from their diverse peers? Or does Suffolk push this statistic in their promotional videos solely for image purposes? Who knows?

We have probably had professors that truly helped us, and professors that we would rather forget, but we should put ourselves in the shoes of our international classmates. It is hard enough to be an international student, but the added pressure from unsympathetic professors can harshly affect the student and their academic performance. Cultural barriers can cause misunderstandings between an international student who needs a little extra practice with English and a well-meaning professor that might not recognize that the student is feeling discouraged.

Mariana Barragan of Colombia wants her professors to know that international students are not going to be as fluent or eloquent with their English as their American-born classmates.

Barragan is working on her junior year at Suffolk University.

Barragan said that Americans are more “private and reserved,” and the friend-making process took longer to develop here than in her native country of Columbia.

In her classes, however, she feels more accepted among her peers.

“The business school has many international students and it’s nice to experience all these cultures and to be open to new ideas.”

She said her orientation Psychology instructor, Sukanya Ray, was what made her fall in love with cultures and psychology. Barragan said Ray is originally from India and greatly understood the challenges international students face.

She also said that Ray opened her eyes to how important it is for professors to encourage their students, and to be open to perspectives from international students.

Barragan did speak of professors that were not as understanding. She talked about her Writing 101 professor that would often make students read aloud in class. Barragan said she would feel “humiliated” when they would continuously correct her in a class that she had difficulty in since English is not her first language.

“It made me feel discouraged, like I was being judged,” she said.

In a predominantly white state with very little exposure to different cultures and races, the diversity at Suffolk is one of the reasons why it stands out from other universities. It’s important for students who weren’t introduced to different cultures until later in life to then try and understand them. It is essential to our development as intellectual human beings to learn from our peers with varying backgrounds.

When you do not open your mind to other cultures and ideas, you can become trapped in a bubble. It is our duty as American citizens to be knowledgeable of events going on around the world. Who knows, those events might even affect our lives here in the United States.

International students enliven our campus with their ideas and experiences. It is beneficial no matter where you are from; whether that is western Massachusetts or Colombia, interacting with international students is a great social skill to have. Overtime you can learn how to communicate and work with people who are different from you, which is an important skill to have in the professional world.

I do not believe that Suffolk takes advantage of international students in order to increase enrollment, however there does need to be more advertising and events specifically for international students to keep them enrolled and remind them why Suffolk is such a great choice for internationals

With the presidential election that consumed the news media over the past several months, it is not surprising that it seems that most American Suffolk students do not know much about world news happening outside of the U.S.

On Oct. 2, a peace treaty that would be a catalyst in ending the ongoing civil war in her native state of Colombia was rejected, and Barragan was deeply affected by it and she suffered academically.

“I was so upset, I couldn’t study for exams,” she said.

Getting adjusted to a new country and culture is hard enough, but to imagine that on top of turmoil in your home country seems unbearable.

In light of this, it is certain that Barragan is not alone in that she found comfort in other international students who are going through similar experiences.

She and many other international students could benefit from more accommodations from Suffolk to make them more comfortable. Barragan enjoyed talking with her international classmates about their ideas, but there should be more opportunities for international and American students to mingle.

“I think there should be more opportunities for representation,” Barragan said.

According to the Suffolk University website, the International Student Services Office has a program called Home Away From Home. This program matches new international students with upperclassmen to “facilitate the adjustment of new international students to Suffolk University, Boston, and American life in general.”

Everyone can benefit from international students: Americans, faculty and other international students from varying countries. But the responsibility falls on the majority of American students to encourage an environment in which international students are not afraid to be themselves.

Sharing varying experiences helps us connect and find similarities with one another and become more aware and conscientious of the world around us. Over time, things that seem to divide us, such as different languages, cultures and so on, are the things that build our knowledge and curiosity about people and the world.