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I have never questioned my ability to network, socialize, mingle or get to know others. I assume that is why I am interested in learning about the stories of others and how they make sense of the world in which they live. A few days ago, I was speaking with various international students, like myself and at that time, they were candid with me about their experiences: many that I could relate to, and some that I could not. However, in speaking to Asian international students, I was shocked and appalled at the blatant expressions of racism that they had noted since living abroad in the U.K.

Living in the United States, particularly in the South, I am no stranger to over or covert racism. There have been times when I have been the recipient of discrimination based on many factors such as my race or gender. I am at the point where it is expected so I brace myself for it because no matter where you live, there will always be close-minded individuals who are stuck in the archaic mind frame that colour or ethnic origin automatically equates superiority for some and subservience for others.  Before coming to the U.K., I did my research on race relations regarding black people and white people here and did not go into this country near-sighted about the racial relationships in the U.K.

The U.K., particularly Manchester is a very diverse place. Walking down the street you can hear several languages and bypass Africans, Asians, Indians, Middle Easterners, Americans, Germans, Irish etc. However, as I listened to my fellow international students discuss their experiences, I could not help but feel empathy and sympathy at the plight of Asians in the U.K. Here they are, English being a second language and not only do they have issues with grasping the language and culture in the U.K., which in some aspects are very different from their native lands, they are also discriminated against as well.

Now, let me be clear that I only spoke to a few Asian students on separate occasions; however, unprompted, they all discussed the same issue. They encouraged me to look closer at the diversity in the U.K. They told me that although the U.K. is very culturally diverse in general, the actual interactions that each culture has with one another is somewhat limited. For example, the Asians noted how they tend to hang with their own ethnic group because they have commonalities and share the same struggle with language and customary practices.  That is something that I will definitely be more cognisant of from now on.

Having lived abroad in Spain as a non-native speaker of Spanish, I can understand the courage it takes to leave home to go to another country where the basic, i.e., the national language, is different from your own. There comes a completely different set of obstacles to overcome and a whole lot more to learn about the culture. Despite the daunting task, it can be achieved.

I have learned through my conversations that the world as a whole has a long way to go before they can look beyond the colour of a person’s skin to judge the content of their character (MLK Jr.).  But, I am hopeful that it can be accomplished and as the world continues to become diverse, our minds will open up and we all will be interested in the stories of each other and learn from them.

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