Ametrica: One response to the divide between domestic and international students

My first reaction to “International relations: Considering the divide between domestic/international” from the October 3 edition of The Mac Weekly was that Ametrica should be mentioned!

The Ametrica Project helps integrate international and domestic students. The goal of the project, which is facilitated by International Student Programs (ISP), is to promote cross-cultural dialogue, understanding and friendship through conversations and shared experiences. Each year’s cohort consists roughly of 50 international and domestic first-years, transfers and exchange students.

I felt like the main point of the October 3 article was that the Macalester community accepts the segregation between international and domestic students because we cannot do anything about it on an individual level.

Participating in Ametrica during my first year shaped my Macalester experience more than anything else, except possibly for the decision to declare an American Studies major. I made some of my best friends at Mac by spending my first days on campus with them, and I eventually became an ISP mentor and office worker. To this day, my friends are still American, International and somewhere in between. Today, as one of the leaders of Ametrica, I am heavily invested in our goal.

My main point is: it stings that the article does not mention Ametrica, because I think it is an important aspect of the conversation regarding the divide between international and domestic students, especially after all the time, energy and goodwill so many people have spent addressing it. The divide is, after all, why Ametrica exists.

The article states that we as a community accept the segregation, but tell that to the nine of us mentors who run Ametrica, who work specifically to lessen this divide. Shout out to Anne, Sankara, Emily, Jake, Gina Marie, Janice, Merrit and Vaishnavi! Tell that to the 15 other mentors who facilitate events for international and domestic students to bond, as well as mentor all international students, including those not part of Ametrica. Shout out to Luiza, Anissa, Nell, Brett, Delia, Di, Emma, Vandy, Melissa, Qisheng, Rachel, Rowena, Simon, Stephanie and Sunakshi! Tell that to Aaron Colhapp, the director of ISP, who created Ametrica, and more importantly has devoted his career to making sure to his best ability that international students are happy and healthy at Macalester. Tell that to Luyen Phan, the assistant director of ISP, who from his first day of work was cracking jokes and connecting with each individual, international or not, who walked by him.

There are also a few confusing elements in the article. I am not sure what point is trying to be made with the section about the white European’s access to the party scene. White privilege is dismissed quite quickly and it seems that it is assumed that international students of color who are not from Europe (and would this include students of color who are from Europe?) must try harder to be part of this scene? As a white American student I cannot speak to personal experiences on either side of this, but from what I have seen during my two-plus years at Macalester, I find this generalization unlikely. Maybe I would understand and agree more if we were instead to look at the nuances within the generalization.

In addition to all of this, I do recognize the truth of some of the points in the article. This is a worthy conversation, and I am in no way saying that the solution already exists nor denying people’s lived experiences, but I think the article sells international students short—both as individuals and their roles in this community. I hope this conversation continues between peers and departments within Macalester, including ISP. It is very important to examine this divide that is so common across college campuses and other communities.

I also believe that at the end of the day, if one wants to, it can be quite seamless to live with, be with, learn from and laugh with Macalester students, whether they are international students, domestic students or those who dislike defining themselves within this binary.

Ametrica is only one way that the Macalester community addresses the divide between international and domestic students. Ametrica is also not perfect. It is a small initiative, which even sees segregation within itself. The fact, however, that students consistently apply means there are individuals every year, both international and domestic, who want to break down this barrier. Let’s focus on creating and highlighting facets of the Mac community that work towards a better integrated (if all parties so desire) and more understanding, compassionate student body–across all types of identities that tend to divide communities, be it country of origin, race, gender, sexuality, political orientation and so on.