Minority students express concerns about U

By By Isabel Hill

By Isabel Hill

Student life for the U’s international and minority students can be much different from the life of the on-campus majority.

Of the U’s 28,933 students, 2,-or about 8 percent-come from minority backgrounds, according to Richard Garcia, U minority coordinator. While each student’s experiences are unique, there are three common problems for many minority students.

Culture differences:

Some students have had very positive experiences across cultural boundaries, while others have found it difficult and often upsetting.

Rocio Guzman, a student from Peru, said the difference in thought between Americans and those from her native country is one of the largest barriers to overcome.

What one thing means to Guzman often means something very different to others, and people can easily become offended over something innocent as a result.

Things are complicated when she has to think extra carefully before she says or writes anything.

Another student, Natalie Hunt Kattelman, agrees with Guzman. Even though she was born in Utah, she comes from a Samoan/Swiss background and sees many things differently from other students.

She pointed out that Utah is currently the state with the second-largest Polynesian population and that the U only has one class to teach people about these cultures.

Students from Puerto Rico face another related challenge.

“The Puerto Rican situation is complicated,” said Ingrid Alvarez, a Puerto Rican student. “I think we are trying to define ourselves as Americans or Latinos or simply as Puerto Ricans. I think this is the difference that I feel. I am in a limbo, full of confusion about the status of our island.”

A large aspect of the local culture is religion. This also makes Alvarez uncomfortable.

“I am not part of the GOC (Grand Old Church)…The fact that I moved here and not for the GOC is a big difference, especially among other Latinos,” Alvarez said.

However, religious differences have not been a problem for Ahmed Barakat.

Barakat is a mechanical engineering student whose mother and father are from the Middle East. Neither he nor his family are members of Utah’s most prominent religion. However, Barakat said that he does not feel discriminated against by members of the LDS Church or other majority “white” groups.

Lack of diversity:

Barakat has noticed a lot of diverse groups and said he is happy with the level of diversity at the U. Areesh Ahmed, a business student, also said he feels there is a lot of diversity, especially at the Union. There he meets students from Bosnia, Armenia and various Spanish-speaking countries. Although these students are happy with the U’s diversity, other students would like to see improvement in many areas.

Rashaan Edmondson is a black student at the U. Edmondson said he knows how minorities feel throughout Utah.

Before coming to the U, he was told he would see and meet many other minority students like himself. Now he realizes that the U has a smaller minority student body than other schools such as Brigham Young University, Utah Valley State College and Utah State University. For example, at UVSC he used to meet numerous other minority students every day without trying to find them.

At the U, Edmondson said he has to seek out other minority students and only meets a few per week. From his observations, many of the minority students are here to play sports. He said he gets the feeling that people at the U don’t care about having a diverse student body.

Language barrier:

The language barrier has been one of Guzman’s greatest obstacles. What is already challenging for other students is even harder for her and others like her. Casual conversations in English are easier for this public relations and business student than writing and being able to contribute thoughtful, intelligent comments in class. She said she often feels misunderstood.

When Alvarez arrived from Puerto Rico, she found out she didn’t know as much English as she thought she did. When she first arrived, people would yell at her thinking she was deaf, and they had no idea that she just didn’t know English.

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