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CSU international students talk discrimination, experiences studying abroad

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  • Third year civil engineering major Hassan Al Zerjawi came to Colorado State University from Iraq. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

  • International Studies major Babin Dinda came to Colorado State University from Europe. Originally from India, Dinda says about his time in college in Colorado, “I learned the true meaning of community here at CSU.” (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

  • International studies major Jewon Kim came to Colorado State University from South Korea. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

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Studying abroad is undoubtedly a memorable experience. But for some students who study abroad in America, the memorable experience might be discrimination.

International students at Colorado State University spoke about their perception among student peers and how they’ve been treated during their time studying abroad.

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“people will give me the small tasks even when I know what I am doing.” -Jewon Kim, sophomore studying international studies

Jewon Kim, a CSU sophomore from South Korea majoring in international studies, said she was able to connect with some of her peers through shared culture. Kim noticed that Korean media and pop songs, also known as k-pop, can help bridge the divide for students from South Korea.

“If people are Asianized or they like our music, it is really easy to be friends with them because they are interested,” Kim said. “But otherwise it is kind of difficult because of cultural differences.”

Those cultural differences are enough to hold Kim back from feeling fully included in class, particularly during group projects.

“I don’t think I can be a leader here because my first language isn’t English and I’m not from America,” Kim said. “Nobody has said anything directly to me, but during group projects and similar things, people will give me the small tasks even when I know what I am doing.”

Babin Dinda, a freshman majoring in international studies and from India, said he knows that other international students experience discrimination, but said it hasn’t happened to him.

“I have heard stories (about racial discrimination) but I haven’t seen any of it,” Dinda said. “Over here (in the U.S.) it’s totally chill and I like it.”

Dinda was told by friends that he would experience discrimination upon arrival.

“When I first came here I had that nervous feeling because you don’t know if the international students are going to be separate from the domestic students,” Dinda said. “But it’s been almost a year now, and I don’t even really feel like I’m an international student anymore.”

Other international students said they experienced very direct discrimination. Hassan Al-Zerjawi, a junior studying pre-engineering is from Iraq. 

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Al-Zerjawi detailed a time when he was passing the Capitol building in Denver during a Trump rally. Al-Zerjawi, who is against Trump but supports the Republican party, stopped for a minute to try and listen to the rally.

“Some guy came up to me and asked: ‘Hey do you support the Republican party?’” Al-Zerjawi said. “Then he asked me where I was from. When I said Iraq, he told me to get the hell out of the country.”

Al-Zerjawi, who said that his experiences in the U.S. have been largely positive and encouraging, said he knows from personal experience that discrimination, especially towards people from the Middle East, is a pressing issue in the U.S. But, he said he sees it on an individual basis rather than collectively.

“Some people have been aggressive towards me or they want to fight me,” Al-Zerjawi said. “… I have asked people in class if they see me differently, but they say I just look like the average American. Maybe they treat me differently because we’re in class and we have to respect each other.”

For more information about resources for international students, visit isss.colostate.edu

 

 

Despite combating stereotypes in the classroom, Kim said that she sees her interactions with American students as mostly positive. 

“Since my first language is not English, people try to help me,” Kim said. “I think it is positive in that way.”

Collegian reporter Carson Lipe can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @carsonlipe

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