I am going to a place abroad this interim where I will become a minority, not only as an American, but also as a white person. How do I make sure to have the best possible experience without letting this reality weigh over my head? Sincerely, Awaiting Abroad
Dear Awaiting Abroad, This is a natural feeling whenever one is in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation. You may feel a little apprehensive, but in actuality, this will be one of the best growing experiences of your life. Before coming to college, we are so comfortable with the way we were brought up and for some of us that comfort zone continues in college. As we grow and are challenged to step outside of that comfort zone, we acquire a wider perspective and a desire to learn more about people who are not like us. Just ask any of the multicultural students about their experience on campus. Thinking about the fact that there are a limited number of people around you who cannot relate to your experience can be kind of frightening at first. But like most unconventional situations that we may find ourselves in from time to time, the experience is what you make it. Get excited to be immersed in another culture and custom. It will add to your outlook on life and make you stronger in future situations where fear and anxiety may arise. Take lots of pictures and if possible, keep a journal so that you can visually and conceptually reflect on your experiences. This will be your own documentation of a lesson and experience that will change your life forever. Dear Sister Speaks, I was recently talking to an elder concerning admission and retention and he made a remark suggesting that the more multicultural students present on campus, the more multicultural students that would want to attend school here. I'm concerned about this because I believe this school has very little to offer to multicultural students. Do you agree or disagree with the elder's remark? What can this school realistically do to make this a place that multicultural students would want to go to? Sincerely, E. P.
Dear E. P., I would like to invite you to do a survey of the multicultural students present on campus and also a self-evaluation. In this survey, you should look back and assess your reasons for coming to St. Olaf and make note of the positive and negative experiences that you have had. I believe that in your assessment, you will find that all of these experiences are learning experiences that come together to build a collective college experience. I empathize with you as a multicultural student in advocating for increased inclusiveness on campus. Sometimes, in our quest, we tend to overlook the resources we already have at hand. As this institution makes visible steps towards such a goal including the position of Dean of Community Life and Diversity and a president who acknowledges choice in sexual orientation on a traditionally Lutheran campus, the college is well on its way and action is taking place. So when you talk to prospective students and others about your college experience at St. Olaf, first and foremost, tell them the truth. The elder you spoke to is talking about his perspective, you have your own, and everyone else shapes perspective through experience as well. My perspective finds validity in his statement about the intentions of future multicultural students. But remember, the students who are here were attracted to present resources and as the resources increase, more students will come. Thank you so much for your concern, but I assure you that others are concerned as well.