Ask, Don’t Assume

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Column by Gisselle Hernandez, Assistant Features Editor

I hate to be playing this card here, but as an international student enrolled at a university in the South, I’ve seen my fair share of, let’s call it ignorance. 8

Now don’t get me wrong; Murray State has a vast diversity of students and we are welcomed warmly by President Davies and most students and faculty. I have no complaints of feeling unwelcome or marginalized.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say I wish our student body and faculty were a tad more informed on their foreign classmates and students. I understand most of you are not familiar with the differing cultures and languages across the international color spectrum, but would it hurt to ask?

Many, many times I have people assume that English is not my native language (which it is). I can see why they would think that; with my accent, it’s pretty easy to think it’s a foreign language to me. The thing that irks me, though, is most people do not bother to ask. They keep thinking that I don’t know certain “American” phrases or mention to others that Spanish is my first language. I have had professors tell me they are surprised that my writing is eloquent since English isn’t my native language, which earns an eye-roll from me pretty much every single time.

It is common courtesy to just ask; this way, we keep from judging you as being ignorant. Assuming certain traits about someone who isn’t from here just goes to show you don’t care enough to know the truth about them. Even if you don’t, it’s better to just ask lest you come off as disrespectful.

Numerous international students face this problem daily, too, and not just about what language they first learned to speak.

There are common misconceptions about the locations of our countries as well. When someone tells you the name of his or her country, don’t retort, “Oh, that’s in South America, right?” For the umpteenth time, NO, it isn’t. Instead, if you ask us to show you where it is, we will do it gladly. We won’t bite. Probably.

Assuming that Belize is somewhere in Asia (it’s a whole other continent, for crying out loud!) shows how uneducated you are to the point of being offensive.

Besides, if you are curious enough to ask, you might learn a cool thing or two from where they’re from. For instance, Belize is in Central America, not Asia, you uncultured individuals.