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GUEST COLUMN: A tradition of acceptance

Sarin Regmi: Students can make A&M ‘home’ for those studying far from their families

Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

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Jorge Montalvo — THE BATTALION

When the plane took off, I felt that I was going to miss something that was dear to me — an environment where I was happy and genuinely unconcerned about my being. I’ve never had such feelings while leaving College Station.

The idea of being accepted, being cared for, being understood by someone has been really hard to comprehend. During my time at Texas A&M, I barely experienced what it meant to be accepted by people for being different. It could be that I simply never appreciated the care and affection from people around me — after all, I can be difficult to please and am a silently critical being. Or, it could be that I never experienced the welcoming, liberal, accepting environment that I expected from a university.

As an international student from Nepal, I favor the second of the two hypotheses. I say, no we do not have a welcoming environment at Texas A&M. It took a week at Qatar during the spring leadership exchange program to figure this out.

There, people cared, people welcomed and people appreciated the differences I brought.

Even though I was not attending classes or living in the dorms, the comfort level I felt with the students was exceedingly high. In return, the U.S. students showed respect for the cultural and religious differences of the Qatar students, as well. Sadly, we are limited to this group of 27 people.

The vast majority of A&M students do not readily accept differences and diversities among their peers in day-to-day life. Statistics do not lie: our campus community is among the worst at supporting diversity, as suggested by the Princeton Review. The spring program challenged the 27 of us to change that.

Can we create a welcoming environment for the entire A&M community? I think we can create such an environment of care and compassion at our campus.

Those of us in the global leadership conference spent days with the same people and grew familiar with each other’s global differences. We came to appreciate and respect one another for those differences.

We spent days together — A&M students spend four years together, being part of the same traditions and history, living in the same dorms. It shouldn’t be unusual to show care, acceptance and compassion with this common experience.

I never had to speak English before coming to the U.S., a personal experience shared by many international students. Now, imagine you are going to study at a Nepalese university. You have to speak in Nepali and stay away from your family on the other side of the world.

Now, suppose you are a Catholic and you are gay. Suppose that you are an Arabic Muslim who goes to a majority-Christian school in the U.S. You come to this other world and are pressured to live a foreign lifestyle — regardless of how unhappy it might make you. How inhumane does it seem if you cannot express yourself?

Put yourself in those situations.

We should not judge people for experiences, backgrounds and lifestyles not under their control, but rather accept them. History has shown that people can solve these issues, and it will only be a matter of time before our community follows suit if we dedicate ourselves to action.

We are not limited to the university we attend, and should embrace the idea of spreading the feeling of “we” rather than “me.”

We can create a humane model of acceptance in this era of globalization. Texas A&M is where we can start.

 

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