Misconceptions might damage University unity

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The article recently published in SCAN, ‘Cartmel runs risk of becoming “International College”’, available online, was deeply disturbing. Along with fundamental misconceptions inherent in this text, it raises other profound questions which will be cursorily discussed here. Firstly, the article was based on a flawed understanding of the procedures of application for residence at Lancaster University. Far from international students ‘being placed in Cartmel because this is the most expensive accommodation on campus’, international, like British, students apply for the college which caters to their residential needs. There is no basis for the claim that ‘Cartmel being the international dumping ground is segregation’.

Secondly, the definition here (or lack of definition) of ‘international students’ is somewhat confused and confusing. Irish citizens are equally classed as ‘international’ as students from France, Russia, Ghana, or China. Are they all the same? Do they all find it difficult to integrate, and make British students feel ‘left out and marginalised in their own flats’? Are the flats ‘British’? Even more contentious is the use of the phrase ‘students indigenous to the country’. Aside from the fact that this is discursively dangerously close to BNP/EDL rhetoric, what exactly is meant by ‘indigenous’? Is there such a thing as an ethnic ‘Brit’ or ‘Englishman’? Never mind the country’s rich history of exchange with foreign peoples and cultures, even a look at surnames reveals the diversity of this country’s population (such comments bring to mind the recent furor over the ‘tram lady’ on youtube).

Thirdly, the article makes the rather erroneous analogy of a British student studying abroad in the USA. Would such an experience be comparable to a British student studying abroad in Ghana, India or China? Would a British student so readily integrate him or herself into the linguistic, cultural and culinary scenery so far abroad? The implication seems to be that our many students from Asia, Africa and the Middle East should be ‘drinking tea every day and having a roast every Sunday’. It is somewhat difficult to believe that most people could live up to such high (if intellectually under-developed) standards of integration if they were put in a similar situation.

Finally, the understanding of what the student experience is all about underlying the article seems rather naïve and hardly representative of the wide spectrum of the student body. Should studying in the UK be all about people subjugating themselves to the cultural norms of this country? Don’t many students revel in university life precisely because it is so culturally diverse? University is all about education – let us agree on that. Is it not one facet of education to learn about other cultures? Did the people cited in the article, when they lived in Cartmel, ever try to integrate their flatmates, ever offer to make them a cup of tea or a Sunday roast? Moving to a completely alien culture (as anyone who actually talks to their international flatmates, or has been far abroad, will know) is extremely intimidating, and a kneejerk reaction is to cling to that which is familiar. I’d ask anyone inclined to agree with this article: would you be any different if you went to study in an entirely foreign university?

I am a half-British, half-international student (make of that what you will) and have been at Lancaster University for many years. I live in Grad: the most ‘international’ college on campus. It would be naïve to claim that everyone here gets on all of the time, but that’s life. I am proud to be in such a multicultural environment, and have found it one of the most enriching experiences of my life. And all it takes is this: a little effort on everyone’s part to understand and communicate with the many diverse people around us, far too diverse to be passed off under the label ‘international’. In the light of recent events which affected my college, I was shocked and saddened to read this article, although, in fairness to the author, she produced this ill-conceived text before these events took place. I urge my fellow students and human beings to reconsider such prejudices and the sources of information before believing such rubbish. Think about it.

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3 Comments

  1. Damn right, and incredibly well written response.

    I’m wondering if any articles are content checked before posting/printing TBH. Surely in an age where news corporations are being held to account for their actions, we should reflect the standards of the newly conscientious press? (and yes, I mean that sardonically.)

  2. In response to your paragraph about what classes as ‘international’ im quite sure that International students are actually classed as those outside the EU ie. those who pay the full fee amounts- I could be wrong here though.

    I am glad you raised the issue of how the college admissions system works. Since we all chose colleges when we arrived here, it would be very troubling if international students wern’t allowed to do the same and I think the accusation that the university places international students together would be a very ungrounded and harsh one.

    There is a very good point made here that integration is a two way thing, why should we possibly expect international students conform to our ‘student experience’ but not attempt to do the same- especially when you consider that actually the British cultural norms involve consuming large amounts of poison and vomiting it back up the next day..seems it might do us some good to try something different. I have lived with 8 international students and never had a problem socialising, I have picked up new cooking skills whilst teaching some of my own as well.

    Anyway im glad to see a well thought out response appear here

  3. Oh and upon re-reading my comment id like to add that im not in any way shape or form against alcahol or consuming it- nor do i pretend not to do it myself….my point was more to show how it could be percieved from an international students point of view as an activity that they may not wish to engage in and we would hardly be able to criticise them for that given what drinking does actually entail!

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