One of the many positive differences between sophomore and freshman years in college is knowing people in your classes. I previously knew at least one person in four out of my five classes. (The fifth one is such a large lecture session that even if I know someone in there, I might never find out.) It was quite surprising, however, to walk into my English class that first Monday and see my Palestinian friend from last year.
In case you don’t remember (or didn’t read) my previous post about Emad, we met on the international floor in Couch last year when he was playing some of my favorite music. He remembered me as well, and we did the good old catch-up routine of asking how the summer went. It has been very fun to have a friend in the class, especially in a small setting where we get to interact fairly regularly.
As this semester has gone on, his views on issues we cover in class and his perspective on life have been very enlightening. Most of the rest of our English class is made of freshmen, and it has been particularly interesting to see their interactions with him. Most of the freshmen are Oklahoma or Texas born and bred, with the exception of another international student in the class. Many of them were originally somewhat dismissive of him. I assume that this is partly due to his obvious accent. Many of them inadvertently treated him as if he were less intelligent, and this bothered me. It truly is a typical stereotype that if someone struggles with the language they must be less intelligent, which is not the case in many instances.
I’ve enjoyed seeing the freshmen learn that lesson as the semester has gone on. Between comments in class and the occasional head-to-head debate, Emad has earned a reputation as one of the smartest people in the class. I’ve overheard multiple comments while walking out the door about how awesome he is, and how interesting to listen to. I really hope that they remember this later in their lives, as they get more chances to interact with people from all backgrounds and cultures. I know I was blessed beyond measure to be raised in the family I have, which values experiences and perspectives (and foods) from all nations and walks of life. I hope that as I continue in this program, I will be able to have a similar impact on the people around me.