Yep, the school year is just around the corner. I’ve already helped my first student with directions on campus. I was walking to my building when I saw her—young, alone, looking nervous and studying a map and her surroundings. I approached her and asked if I could help. In broken English, she asked me where Bessey was. I was happy to assist and pointed her toward the building, smiled and wished her luck.
As I walked on, I thought about how brave she was to come to a foreign country at such a young age to study. I’ve been to China so I know how very different this country must seem to her. Tackling the language, campus, weather, diversity, culture, food and more—I thought about how much she’ll have to learn before even stepping foot in a class.
I remember the day my daughter decided to attend college overseas. Of course I was nervous about sending my baby across the ocean, but more than anything I was incredibly proud of her passion, independence and fearlessness. She did have it a bit easier as she was in Scotland where they speak English, but there were plenty of differences for her to get used to.
Last weekend brought more than a 1,000 new international students to campus. The university has them come earlier than other students so they can go through orientation and participate in all sorts of activities to help them adjust to MSU. The rest of the students move in this weekend. They even have a “spirit session” to teach them about campus traditions and teach them the MSU fight song.
They have a lot to learn and we have plenty we can learn from them. That’s one of the great things about being on a college campus—you can meet people from all over the world with different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and culture.
Author Jacqueline Woodson has said, “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.”
Sometimes, that can be a challenge. We all grow up with stereotypes, biases and misinformation about people who are different than us.
Journalism instructor and visiting-editor-in-residence Joe Grimm has made it his goal to educate people and challenge those stereotypes. He teaches a class that helps bring people together and provide tools for understanding other backgrounds and cultures.
Originally designed to help journalists, his students research questions and answers about other cultures and publish them as guides, including one about Americans that is used to help international students adjust to life in the United States. Read the MSUToday feature, Busting Biases, to learn about his class and to challenge yourself with a 12-question sample quiz from his books.
Grimm says that he loves the fact that teaching the course allows him to live his values and that he learns as much as he teaches. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Living My Values, to learn more about the man behind the class.
When Patrick Harris, a senior from Southfield, Michigan, majoring in elementary education, came to MSU, the whole experience was a culture that was foreign to him. As a first-generation college student, he didn’t have much exposure at all to what the college life was all about.
As a minority student, he also found that not every single person is as culturally accepting as they should be. But Harris, who is a member of this year’s Homecoming Court, says for every negative experience, he found a positive, engaging and loving person and experience here on campus. Read his STUDENT VIEW: Paving the Way, to learn more about his time at MSU.
You just never know whom you might meet or what you might learn at Michigan State. You might find yourself in a conversation with students from China, India or Germany. You could find yourself trying a new food or dance. You might sing the fight song with someone who worships differently than you. You will probably meet someone whose skin, hair, clothing and language is different from yours. You might even find someone playing a polka on an accordion in front of the Alumni Chapel, like our photographer did in this week’s GLIMPSE: Just Because.
But there is one thing that we all have in common—we’re Spartans. Though we come from all walks of life and have different strengths, together we will change the world.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner