BY SIDDHI SHAH '19
Like most American colleges, Mount Holyoke has that obligatory picture of a diverse group of students smiling warmly on the college brochures, standing as a testimony to the college’s diversity. Unlike most American colleges, however, at Mount Holyoke, these diverse groups of students don’t just exist on paper. In every class and student organization I have been a part of, there have been various students from different racial, ethnic, class, gender, religious and political backgrounds. At Mount Holyoke, diversity is not a myth. In fact, nearly 28 percent of the entire student population is comprised of international students and an even larger portion consists of students of color.
Most international students, like me, travel thousands of miles and fly across oceans to create our space in a foreign community. An even larger number of students of color step out of safe spaces that they may have created back home to start from scratch in this new community. Mount Holyoke College does its part by facilitating discussions and workshops, educating its members and having cultural houses at the outskirts of campus to integrate us into their community. When this community is in crisis, both domestic and international students alike come to its aid. But what happens when an inter- national student or a student of color is in crisis?
While Mount Holyoke does a com- mendable job of helping international students exist within the Mount Holyoke community, it often forgets that these international students also have to survive in the country outside of this community. In response to my critique, the most obvious retort would be, “it’s not the job of the college to teach you how to survive.” True, it is not. But isn’t it the job of the College to give me the tools to navigate living in this foreign land when it calls itself my “MoHome?”
From the moment I heard that term, I was hesitant to conform to it because to me, “home” means protection. Recently, when I was put in a situation where I had to survive in this nation first and be a member of the Mount Holyoke community second, I felt anything but “protected.” I think it will suffice to say that legal officials were involved and in a rude awakening; I found out that as an international student in this foreign land, there is no protection I can receive from the police.
I do not feel any anger or remorse towards those police officials for their inability to protect me. I recognize that even though the College has integrated me into its community, to the rest of the nation, I am nothing more than an outsider. If anything, I’m thankful to all those college officials who have done their best to help me in this situation. But what I do feel frustration at is the lack of awareness of legal resources for international students. How many international students reading this article can name their legal rights in this foreign land at the drop of a hat? Can you file a police re- port? What rights would you have if you were to be arrested? What legal protection could you seek if you were exploited off campus? Do you have the answer to these questions? Neither do I.
By no means do I think that I am entitled to protection, but what I do believe is that I am entitled to knowledge about where I can seek that protection. Mount Holyoke may have done a ‘prize-worthy’ job of getting international students here, but perhaps now that we are here, it should take a step further and teach us how to survive in this foreign land. Now is the time, “MoHome.” Never fear change.