Last week Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) students had the opportunity to participate in a workshop called Building Inclusive Communities for Learning and Leading at Whatcom Community College. This all-day event was sponsored by the college’s Programming and Diversity Board and the Intercultural Center and gave NWCCI students the chance to learn about communicating across differences and to network with college administrators, students, faculty, staff, and department heads.
Below Natalia Cestaro, a Brazilian student studying Tourism and Hospitality, writes about what the workshop taught her about being an ally to people facing tough situations.
David Foster Wallace once wrote the following:
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What is water?”
On September 20th Whatcom students participated in an all day workshop titled “Building Inclusive Communities for Learning and Leading at Whatcom Community College” conducted by Patricia Fabiano. The main purpose was to reflect and understand diversity and the steps to becoming an ally to people who are not as privileged.
The quote above talks about the importance of context. We are international students who left our house and family behind because of a unique opportunity. A privilege was given to us to represent a country, a culture and a history. So, it is our responsibility to be aware of what surrounds us and not just “swim in the water”. We are able to make a difference in someone’s life. It’s a matter of choice to opt in or opt out when we see someone facing a tough situation. But, how do we do it? Some steps described by Pat Fabiano:
(1) Don’t step into a situation that still affects you internally/emotionally
(2) Listen more, talk less.
(3) Let the person know first know that you acknowledge the situation and then ask questions.
It really takes courage to help someone: remember to observe and be aware. We are one in seven billion over the world but keep in mind that you may be the only one for someone.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S.Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.