Letter to the editor: Student makes amends with international students for xenophobia


Dear International Students:

Apologies are never any fun, but if there was ever one that was overdue, it might be this apology.
I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I know that I am not the only one who has struggled in this way and have failed to act in the way I should.
This is not meant to be a passing apology that quietly voices momentary regret and seeks to quickly move on.
This is a humble apology that recognizes my shortcomings and a desire to change the actions and habits I have formed.
That is the real reason to apologize anyway, isn’t it?
You have come from all over the world, and you may very well be the first person I have met who wasn’t like me.
You might laugh, but I didn’t know a lot of people when I was growing up who didn’t speak my language, didn’t hold my beliefs or go to my church.
There were some, but they were usually easy to avoid.
Why are differences such a big deal?
Deep down inside, I am afraid of change.
I don’t know how to act around people who are different from me. I fear the unknown, and I have realized that building a relationship with an international student opens the doors to a lot of unknowns.
Regrettably, I have so often taken the easy route and avoided encountering those different from me.
This fear is unacceptable, and I know it has robbed us both of opportunities to learn and grow together.
When you say you are Hindu or Muslim, I must confess I have let this affect my actions.
I must sincerely apologize. I say I am a Christian, but, most of the time, I don’t know what I believe. You may quickly realize that cultural religion only breeds ignorance and hypocrisy.
So when you say you are Muslim or Hindu, I am afraid because it forces me to examine what I actually believe.
So often, I haven’t even tested my own faith to know why I believe. It’s hard to handle thoughtful questions to that which I have given no thought.
This is not your fault but mine entirely. I do, however, thank you for testing my beliefs. I need people like that.
I confess: I have heeded the stereotypes. I have watched the nationalistic propaganda.
Usually, I think I know what you will be like before I even meet you. I know this is wrong, and I am learning how to base my beliefs on facts and relationships and not what others or my country tells me.
You may think I am so busy, and most of the time I think I am busy too.
I live in a world based on managing every minute and second.
I know relationships take time and sometimes I get so caught up in myself to take time to invest in the people around me, much less those who are different from me.
I apologize for my lack of thought, lack of courage and lack of initiative. I really don’t understand how hard it is for you.
I forget how intimidating it must be to leave your home country and live in a place that differs from your own in every way.
I don’t know how lonely it can be here, far away from friends or family.
I don’t know how difficult and humbling it is to struggle to do the simplest things like travel, shop or build relationships. I am learning and hope that you will give me a second chance.
You deserve it.

Name withheld

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