Stephanie Tran, Global Affairs

It’s often been said by administrators and student tour guides that George Mason University is so diverse, and that Mason has so many international students. There’s no doubt that this is true, but it’s also true that around campus, many international students, especially Asian ones, bunch up in groups, a little apart from other Mason students. Sure, Mason may be diverse, but are we all bridging gaps between other groups?

Let’s rewind a bit. I’m talking from a strange, some would say “unique” position of being raised both as an American and an Asian (Vietnamese). Though in many ways I’m Americanized (e.g. Christmas and birthdays) and speak English, not Vietnamese, I also know more about Vietnamese culture (e.g. proper bows to elders) than some of my grandparents’ generation.

This brings me to my topic: That invisible, but strong divide, between many of the Asians on this campus and other Mason students; one that I can see from both sides. This cultural line is what causes Asian students to talk to me first, or ask for my help. They look towards familiar-looking people who they think can help them regardless of whether I know them because they’re uncomfortable with anyone who isn’t Asian. This same cultural line was apparent at one of the shuttle stops recently.

After not being able to board a full shuttle, some Asian students swarmed the next one, placing themselves in danger and angering the bus driver, who shouted at them to get away from the incoming bus. Watching the scene unfold, I felt myself growing upset, though I’m not sure why. Was it my fear, the same fear as the bus driver’s, that the students would be hit by the bus? Was it the driver’s attitude? Or was it the stereotypical actions of both the aggressive Asians and the loud American?

Let me just say now that I think both parties were a little in the wrong. One group put themselves at risk and the other was overly upset by the first’s display. However, as a part of both groups, I can reveal the cultural divide that made both groups act the way they did. In an Asian country with few services and too many people, pushing your way to the bus might just prevent you from having to wait a full day to get back home. In a rich country with so many resources like America, shoving is unnecessary, not the norm, and thus, rude, while placing yourself in danger to get to a shuttle is seen as plain crazy.

As you go to class in the weeks to come, strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, regardless of whether you think they’re “like you” or not. Who knows? You may just learn something new.