Department of English

Spring 2012 Edition

Delicate Social Fabric

Kim Ji Hae
Argumentative 1010 2nd Place
Professor: Charles Cuthbertson

It is evident that schools in the 21st century have student populations from a wide range of ethnicities. The surge in the number of students going abroad to pursue their college education is primarily due to increased global mobility. Just like other colleges, Southern Utah University (SUU) has also succeeded in attracting many of these foreign students to participate in its SUU culture and the American education. Despite the school’s willingness to increase its foreign students intake, many of these individuals have yet to assimilate into the SUU environment. It is crucial that one should not ignore the distinct segregations of race groups in the school. As such, SUU should carry an active role in helping these students to allow a smooth transition into the culture. This would in turn strengthen the SUU spirit and also create a harmonious community.

There is a common saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Many American students would agree with this. Some even have the impression that foreign students are unwilling to socialize. Although this may reflect the attitudes of some, the majority of these foreign students are eager to experience a genuine American education. It is the language and the cultural barriers which make it difficult for foreign students to intermingle, creating a misconception that these individuals are apathetic with the college life.

Before going into details on how SUU should help the assimilation of these foreign students, one has to deal with the misconceptions many have about these students. For many of these individuals, coming to America to pursue their college education is a big deal. This is because studying abroad is seen to be a rare opportunity where they come from. Also, the common perception that the American education is much more prestigious makes it even more important. As such, many of these foreign students are eager to learn English and experience the full college life. However, the inability to communicate well and the differences in cultural interaction make it hard for these students to identify with the Utah culture.

For many, college life is a new experience, especially when they are immersed into an unfamiliar environment as they pursue their college education abroad. With this foreign setting, many colleges around the world aim to aid in easing the transition through school events such as orientation. Orientation usually serves as a platform for individuals, especially for foreign students, to socialize and also as a means partake in the creation of school spirit. However, SUU does not execute the assimilation very well. During the SUU orientation, I was instructed to go through the program and move around with my Korean peers. The initial grouping of Koreans during the orientation made it hard for me to socialize with my American peers; as by the end of the orientation, many individuals had already formed cliques while the foreign students had yet to intermingle with them.

In my home country, Singapore, colleges have an extensive orientation period. Students are expected to attend the school orientation as well as the orientation planned by their major of choice. The concept of these orientations tends to focus on teamwork and leadership. The orientation planning team divides the student population into small groups with the foreign student population divided equally into these subgroups. With the formation of groups, these foreign students are in a situation where they naturally interact with their fellow peers and intermingle with them. Furthermore, with the orientation largely focusing on team activity, these foreign students are able to build team relationship with their other group members and identify with them. SUU would do well to adopt this orientation style to help foreign students naturally mix with their American peers.

It is commonly understood that with the increase in foreigners settling in a country, there is an increase in the monetary inflow. This concept is similar to when there is an increase in foreign students. With more foreign students willing to study abroad, it brings in more income for the colleges of their choice. As a result, many colleges are competitive when it comes to attracting these consumers. One way these colleges can compete is to be well-known for their multi-racial population where acceptance and toleration is their main objective. This is crucial for international students as the fear of not being accepted is largely ingrained in their worries. In SUU’s case, there is a long history of the inflow of international students. With the small international population, SUU is not yet seen as attractive compared to other colleges where a multi-racial population is distinct.

Although it is understood, SUU should have a clearer goal in assimilating the foreign students and aiming to increase their international student population. By doing so, it would act as a reassurance to the international students, removing any fear of not being accepted. One way SUU can do this is by pushing for a multi-racial population. By claiming and putting more emphasis on the international population, these students will feel more accepted by the school. Opponents may argue that the existence of the Multi-Cultural Club is enough to service these international students, but this is inadequate. If the school was to place much more emphasis and importance on the existence of the Multi-Cultural Club and its programs, it might inject the idea that a pluralistic population is important. This will create a natural psychological need and want to interact with the international student population and to learn about their cultures. By doing so, students will be more comfortable and less shy about intermingling with their American peers. This would also be beneficial to the school, as it might attract more foreign students, increasing the possible inflow of income.

Encouraging a closer-knit student population, regardless of their race, is important, as it would strengthen the school spirit and culture. Many a times, we see top colleges with strong school spirits due to their strong student network. I would like to put forth a proposal for SUU to work on assimilating the foreign students to strengthen the school’s national standards.