A Lesson I’ve Learned

Hello world, it’s your friendly neighborhood Shupp here again with something to rant about. This has actually been pissing me off for a while and it has to do with international students. Now, I don’t know about where you are, dear reader, but I’ve noticed in the area where I am there’s this really annoying and sad stereotype about students whop come from overseas to study. Its that they’re lazy, don’t try and are arrogant.

I’m going to tell you all a story, it starts at the beginning of this semester in my first class. We had a surprise guest speaker instead of our normal class and they we were about half an hour early; so to kill time the teacher tried to do this survey kind of thing to see how everyone was enjoying the course so far. The right side of the room was a 10 and the left was 0 with the middle being left as a 5.

Now, most of us stood at the right side of the room saying that we “enjoyed the course but our marks were letting us down”. The truth is I’d have stood probably closer to the 5 then the 10 since I’m finding it really hard but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself (I like to blend in when I’m intimidated which is most of the time). Anyhoo the person who stood furthest from the 10 was an international student from China. I’d seen this girl a few times before around campus but never really paid any attention to her because I just didn’t. She wasn’t in my class and I always thought she wasn’t even in my degree. But she’s in my class this semester so therefore, she’s in my degree.

So, the teacher went through us all and started asking us about what we were enjoying an what we wanted to improve on and what we weren’t enjoying (y’know, yadda yadda yaddda everyone says more or less the same thing). She got to the Chinese international student and asked her why she was so far down the line. And I swear what this girl said proved all of these stereotypes wrong.

She said that she was sort of enjoying the course (my reading between the lines told me that she wasn’t really) but the fact that she wasn’t a native English speaker made everything a massive that much harder. My realtalk filter told me this: she wanted to like it but she felt alone. She couldn’t speak the language as fluently as she liked so everything was hard to follow and she had no one to stick with during class.

I know that saying ” I have no one to stick with during class” might sound like its not a huge deal, but trust me it is. I’ve been an outsider in most things during my younger years. I know how much of a difference it makes to have someone to be with when your in a class. Its weird but I would feel really scared and anxious when I wouldn’t have anyone there that I knew I could go and have a conversation with. In fact, I still feel this.

That’s why when I heard this girl say this I thought to myself “If there is one thing I’d like to get out of this year, its making that girl and anyone else like her feel like they belong”. I don’t like it when people get left out because I know what it feels like. It hurts. And its hard enough being in a foreign country. Imagine having to do it alone.

Of course, me being my socially challenged self, basically just sat behind her in class and stared at the back of her head trying to work up the courage to say something to her. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I knew from past experience with a close friend of mine that I had to be careful and try not to scare her off (I can be too much sometimes). So yeah I just would look at her and think “OMFGHEFUHE SHUPP STOP BEING SUCH A MORON AND GO SAY HI” and then I’d be like “but what if she doesn’t like me? What if she thinks I’m a total weirdo and have issues? ARGHHHHHH!”

Yes, it was a lot of internal conflict for like 3 week straight.

Until…

At the beginning of the year I ended up becoming friends with this amazing girl. She’s one of those people who can just become friends with ANYONE. No joke. She’s one of those people who can just make everyone in the room feel at ease and can be anyone’s best friend. Normally I could blend into the wall like beige wall paper, but when I’m around her (or well, when anyone is around her) I just feel more alive.

I skipped class the other day because I knew I could read that powerpoint that the teacher takes 3 hours to go through in ten minutes by myself. It was lunchtime so I went out of the library to meet up with my class mates, but then realised half an hour later that they went somewhere else. And the anxiety started kicking in and I was about to freak out. But then I walked into the cafeteria for the fifth time in that 30 minutes telling myself to have one last look. I saw my friend taking with the girl in my class and two of her other international student friends.

You have no idea how amazing it felt to see her and them on the same table and talking.

So I went up behind her and nudged her and soon enough one of them pulled up a chair for me and we started talking and I really found myself liking these girls from China. The girl that was in my class got really excited too when I showed up and soon enough she told me that everyone went home because our class got cancelled (I got a text twenty minutes later from a class mate with this information). in the next half hour we had decided to go to a fabric shop to search for fabrics for an assessment and on the way to the fabric shop I learned all about these girls’ and their homes and  how they were finding it in Australia.

The girl in my class had just finished high school and came here and I was like “holy shit that’d be scary”. The next day I told one of my friends to wait up before leaving for lunch because I wanted to take the girl with us. I wanted my class mates and friends to meet her so she can have some sort of support in the class even when I’m not there. And sure enough, they’re all talking now and she seems a lot better adjusted. I hadn’t seen her smile in class before that and it felt really good to see her look happy and not frustrated and scared in class.

So yeah, that’s my story. Its a long one and if you managed to stay till now (or if you just skipped the boring bits and came to the end) I guess the lesson is, try to make friends with the lonely stranger. You might learn something new. I’m learning tons about China (they told me that the Chinese say that China is shaped like a chicken and call the city Wuhan the “heart of the chicken”) and they even offered to give me a tour of their home cities if I ever visited.

The bottom line is, just because they don’t approach you first, doesn’t mean they don’t want to know you. Its daunting meeting new people and we all go through it. Its even scarier in a country where you don’t speak the language because there’s always that fear that they won’t understand you.

At the end of the day we’re all scared little puppies one way or another.

Anyhoo, until next time world. It’s time I should try to finish my homework before 12 am.

Goodnight/morning/afternoon!

(btw, song of the night:

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