Abii-Tah Chungong Bih is a senior in James Madison College with a double major in international relations and comparative cultures and politics. Bih is an international student from Cameroon and serves as the 2020-2021 undergraduate student body president and is a member of the 2020 Homecoming court.
The year 2020 has offered me a unique set of life-defining experiences. This has elbowed me into reflecting upon my health, my resilience, my ability to pivot and even my responsibility towards my life and the lives of others in my Spartan community.
The introspection of grimness and morbidity has been immeasurable but luckily for me, the world-shifting moments were not always the frightening, uncertain ones. The most remarkable moments from my perspective were the days when we stood together as Spartans in defiance of insurmountable odds. They were the moments when my peers advocated for international students when the recently rescinded ICE policy threatened their ability to pursue their education on MSU’s campus.
Our Spartan solidarity in voraciously demanding for justice for each other is what defines us as Spartans. We are defined by our unbendable bond and our values — the fact that one Spartan’s problem is all Spartans’ problems; the idea that we uplift each other and leave nobody behind in our advocacy. And the fact that we prioritize each other.
As Spartans, we are defined by our ability to find the strength of heart and mind to look after each other even when we are not ultimately comfortable. In my time at MSU, I have experienced this openness almost every day.
In my James Madison classes, we help each other with homework and peer reviews even when we neither have the time nor the answers to all the questions. At ASMSU, we volunteer to complete each other’s tasks whenever we sniff a hint of fatigue from our co-workers. As students, we jeopardize our comfort and freedom by marching on the streets of Michigan Avenue and bending a knee at the capitol as we protest for the respect and justice for Black bodies.
These small and large actions encapsulate the values that make true Spartans — indiscriminate care, compassion and community. As an international student leading the student body during the global crisis of the century, these are the values that are helping me manage.
As I stroll past our empty buildings on campus this fall season, I remind myself that our Spartan values have always transcended skin color, age and cultural differences. That thought fuels me with the hope that our values will definitely transcend physical distance and time difference.
I am able to find peace in this pandemic because of the certainty that our virtual community is strengthening — as long as we continue to imagine ourselves in each other. If we continue to be the “Whites” to each other’s “Greens,” our bond and values will withstand this whirlwind of a pandemic. As I take nervous, grudging steps towards leaving Michigan State University, my dream is to end up in a graduate school in the UK that will empower me with the global network and skills to strengthen the political institutions in my home country Cameroon. No matter which route I take, I will always be a Spartan.