International students discuss diversity at Suffolk

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Ram Inclusion Week includes diversity panel

Two international students shared their experiences at Suffolk University and their thoughts on diversity during a Feb. 3 panel, an event put on as part of the university’s 2021 Ram Inclusion Week. 

Min-Fang Amber Luo and Ezra Bezaliel answered questions from peers about international student life during the panel, which was sponsored by the INTO Program at Suffolk. 

Born in Taiwan, Luo is currently studying global public policy at Suffolk. Bezaliel, born in Indonesia, is working toward his degree in public relations and advertising. Both are graduate students at the university. 

Bezaliel’s move to America was partially sparked by his uncle, who came to the country in 1989. Bezaliel visited him in America when he was young, inspiring him to one day make the move. 

“From the first moment I lay my eyes on the United States, I decided I really want to live in the United States. Visiting a couple times made me fall in love with the country,” said Bezaliel.

Growing up in Taiwan, Luo said it was common for people to aspire to come to America, adding that many people wanted to build a secure life for themselves in the United States. Luo said she is grateful that she is able to afford moving across the world and hopes to stay.

Many who move across the world may face culture shock: feelings of confusion or anxiety that come from differences in culture. For these students, this included some aspects of the American experience, such as new foods, a faster paced life and a new education system.

While most of Luo’s friends are from her undergraduate years, Zoom has made it especially difficult for her to make new ones. 

“Ever since I started Suffolk, everything has been online. I feel like it’s really hard to build a real relationship over a screen,” said Luo. 

COVID-19 continues to create barriers for those who want to make connections. However, the speakers noted that Suffolk could build and improve its community among students by holding more group presentations in classes, since they can be a helpful source in making connections. According to Luo and Bezaliel, new students can benefit from this because it allows for natural conversation amongst each other. 

Diversity itself can appear differently from country to country. Bezaliel discussed how Indonesia is home to thousands of islands and many languages. The country’s standard language is Indonesian, which is also Bezaliel’s primary language.

While Bezaliel had diversity in Indonesia, he said how difficult it was to become acclimated to the American environment. 

He struggled to carry conversations with people of many cultures, whether they be about politics or even saying hello. 

“Diversity is really common in my country but it’s much harder when I came here. There’s a multitude of Russian, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese students. It’s an entirely different standard culture with much higher diversity,” Bezaliel said.

Both students mentioned how awkward it can be to speak to people of other cultures for the fear of unintentionally offending them. However, they agree it’s a way to meet new people and make connections.

Luo mentioned that people in Taiwan mostly spoke Mandarin or Chinese. While there are people of many races in Taiwan, there isn’t a high magnitude of diversity. She too agreed that the U.S. is more diverse compared to her home country.

Despite there being a large number of international students at Suffolk, both Luo and Bezaliel agree that they mostly see people spend time with those from the same cultures. 

“Even with all the diversity here, I feel like I follow that trend a little myself, but I’m hoping to meet new people in the future,” said Luo.

While there are many hardships that come with attending online school as an international student, the panelists said they are glad to have chosen Suffolk. 

“There’s a lot of teachers that will help you. The online student-focused events have helped me socialize and meet new people,” said Bezaliel. “For me, I totally feel supported.”

Suffolk now offers counseling for students who are currently living outside of Massachusetts. The program can help those who are finding it difficult to make connections, are struggling with their mental health or are facing other challenges. For more information about the program, click here.