Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Group 5

Hummingbird's picture

More than Teachers and Students

I woke up last Monday to an email saying classes were canceled due to snow and all non-essential staff were asked to stay home. So I was surprised to stroll into the bathroom and see my hall's housekeeper wiping down the sink countertop. I wasn't expecting anyone to be there, but particularly not any college staff. "Wait, don't you get the day off?" I asked. She explained that no – she and the rest of the housekeeping staff are considered essential and have to report into the college regardless of the weather conditions. She then expressed concern that the weather would make it difficult for her to pick up her daughter on time. I wished her luck, and left feeling shocked, helpless, and a little bit guilty. I was surprised the college would require housekeeping staff to report when faculty don't have to – especially because, as 18-22 year olds, I feel we should be pretty capable of restocking toilet paper or keeping our spaces clean, at the very least for a couple of days. I felt helpless because I didn't know what I could do to ease the situation, and wasn't sure what my responsibility was. And I felt guilty because she was forced to risk her own safety to come in to take care of our mess and our spaces.

laik012's picture

How do we decide?


I always felt that what defines and makes up an identity very fascinating. Most often I associate identity with religion, language, physical features and to some extent their likings and passions (eg. Type of food, subject, music, etc.) I try my best never to believe in stereotypes but it is always fun sometimes to guess a person’s origin and what they associate themselves as. Few days ago, I met guy A in one of my class. He looked familiar and reminded me so much of my good friend from high school. I told myself at that time, if I had to guess, he must be a mix kid (half Asian and half White). From then on, I proceeded with class and didn’t bother to go further and ask since my curiosity is sometimes pathetic. The next day, I saw him again and told him he looked so much like my friend from Kazakhstan. He immediately told me his parents are from there but he was raised in America. I always wanted to learn Russian so I asked him whether he spoke the language, as soon as he said yes; he began teaching me some phrases. Without much thought, I told A that I really like his identity, he neither looks typically Asian nor White, speaks a European language but grew up in America. I told him that it’s funny how you like meat so much and love math. My Kazakh friend is so similar. He didn’t say much but appreciated that I knew so much about Central Asia.


stonewall's picture

Homophobia at Bryn Mawr

One of my good friends on the rugby team came to Bryn Mawr her freshman year with plans to join the soccer team. On her first day the team seniors talked to the new players and one of the things that they took pride in/ bragged about was how they were the only "straight" team at Bryn Mawr. This made my friend really uncomfortable and she quit the team that week.

I don't know all of the soccer players but I do know that this isn't the first time that I've heard from players on the soccer team that the team has some homophobic people on the team. This summer I worked at Bryn Mawr with a girl on the soccer team and we would occacionally talk about our teams. So one day I brought up the story my friend told me. The girl I worked with admitted that it happened and that she didn't think it was right.

I'm surprised that this is a thing at Bryn Mawr and really want someone to explain this to me because I don't understand how it wasn't addressed.

laik012's picture

A variety of white? black? yellow? Was I color-blind?

I’ve never understood the variety of Whites or Caucasian as you may point out. In Malaysia, the media often portrays a single type of White, the privilege one. There’s no such thing as poor whites, Latinos or a Jewish background. As long as you have white skin, you are considered “Guai Loi” which means ghost guy or white person. My experience at Bryn Mawr has taught me otherwise. A lot of my close Jewish friends taught me that Jews have been through a lot to get to where they are now. One of my most memorable lectures that I saw my Jewish friends fall into tears was a speech by Norman Finkelstein’s “How to Resolve the Israel-Palestine Conflict”. As a fellow Malaysian who indirectly supports Palestine based it’s cruel history, seeing my Jewish friends blamed for being Jews was quite heartbreaking. I can never understand the true power dynamics that was involve. I find it quite interesting how a significant number of Jewish people I know come from hardworking families but are also blamed for their cruelty towards the Palestinians. I can see some form of grudge sometimes through silence. This will forever remain a sensitive topic at least in my circle of ‘diverse’ friends.


qjules's picture

Please Leave Assumptions at the Door

Before the break I overheard two friends discussing some facebook drama surrounding a status about teaching that a student posted. “Wait what happened?” I asked. My friend turned to me, “I didn’t tell you because I know how passionate you can get.” She said, “Just tell me, I wanna know!” She eventually paraphrased the status to me; the gist of the remark was a student said she needed to take martial arts classes before she began teaching at a school in an urban setting. This is not the first time I have heard an ideology like this and I can guarantee it wont be the last.

I believe that if this student enters a urban public school classroom with this attitude she is likely to reap what she sows. I don’t say this to be threatening or cruel, but realistic. I think there are no better detectors of authenticity and intention then children, and they deserve to be led by someone who has only the greatest expectations of them-not someone who expects disobedience, and worse, violence simply because of the location of their school, or the implied the race and class positions of such students.

laik012's picture

Challenging assumptions and associations: My multicultural moment

Switzerland is known to be a neutral country and home to numerous international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank and Red Cross. As a result, one would assume people living in this country to be open-minded, diverse and non-discriminatory. However, one of my experiences living in Switzerland as an international student challenged my assumptions and demonstrated otherwise. It was frightening enough adjusting to the new temperature, language, people and food. I always had the belief that western teachers were friendly, creative and open to new suggestions. I left Malaysia in seek of a new life, perhaps a hope for a burst of inspiration that would expand my exposure of the world. The International Baccalaureate program allows me to pick a foreign language as one of my six subjects. It was either German or French. I picked French since I was living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and I thought that the language was easier than German. I remembered entering French class on my first day of school. I was the second student that entered the classroom. The classroom was located in sous-sol, known as basement in English. I remembered how badly-lit and bone-chilling the setting was. When the teacher saw me, she greeted me with a smile and said bonjour. I smile and replied bonjour et merci. In Malaysia, I was always taught the importance of the teacher as an authoritative figure and it was necessary that I remain polite at all times.

qjules's picture

i don't got a dollar

When I was in my sophomore year of highschool I decided to do a portrait of our new home for my mother for her birthday. At the time many houses in Boston were being foreclosed, the house we moved into was one of them.  The house was a beautiful victorian and represented a new begining for my family. My mother, who raised me alone for the majority of my childhood had re-married and this was her first time being a homeowner, and my first time living in a house. As a visual art major at school, I brought my painting to school to use some of the school's materials and get feedback from the teachers on my anticipated gift. Before going to the art department I had one more class and had to take my painting with me. As I sat in my spanish class the room was abuzz with chatter. "i'm tryna go to the snack machine, you got a dollar?"', a classmate asked me. "no, sorry" I said. Looking at painting he then said "yes you do, you're rich, I seen your house!" After he said that I didnt know what to say. I had no idea what my family income was, and why would I? Not only that, but my parent's money was not mine, their income did not affecct the change in my pockets or lack thereof. Growing up in Boston, class distinctions were hard for me to explain and still are. How do I explian that I dont live in "the hood" but next to it?, that I live on a quiet street, but hear shots and sirens from two blocks over? my class has been on an upward shift my whole life and I take experiences from every instance of my poor to middle class journey.

stonewall's picture

Name Calling

I had a good friend from elementary through high school whose name was Gulistan. We’d been in  a lot of the same classes together throughout school. People, students and teachers, would make fun of her name, make a funny face when they heard it for the first time, or not even bother to try to say it right. She was the only Turkish person at our school besides her younger brothers. In elementary school kids teased her and called her Gully even though she didn’t like being called that. Once in high school, I even heard a teacher make a comment about her name in front of the class saying that it sounded like a country “You know Pakastan, Afghanastan, Gulistan” then laugh about it. When that happened I felt really bad for her because the teacher was making fun of her in front of the whole class. Now looking back at that experience I still find it incredibly disrespectful that he did that. My high school was mostly White with some Black and Hispanic students. However, in the advanced and honors courses there was very little diversity. After reading the Amos article it reminded me of this experience and how people aren’t conscious of their privilege unless they find themselves in a situation where they are the minority.

Hummingbird's picture

Ethnic Diversity in a (Relatively) Homogeneous Space

I spent last semester studying in Denmark and every Thursday as part of my coursework I visited a very small, independent K-10th grade school. The student body (about 150 students total) was predominantly white and there were only two non-ethnic Danish students amongst the approximately 35 8th through 10th graders that I spent most of my time working with. My position at the site was one of a participant-researcher. I worked with the English teacher to lead presentations on and discussions about American culture. I served almost as an ambassador of the United States to students who had never met an American before. I ate lunch with together with the students and chatted with them during breaks. But I was also collecting notes about the classroom culture and even led group interviews at the end of my semester there to gather student perspectives on gender in the classroom – a topic I wrote my final term paper on. I share this background because I want to make clear my position in relationship to the students I worked with. I was not considered a teacher exactly, but I was also not considered a "friend." 

Syndicate content