“The Others” on Campus

February 19, 2024


The concept of “others” or “outsiders” is prevalent anywhere in the world. It is human nature to view those that are different from us as a collective group and not as individuals. At Dickinson I have noticed this in multiple forms  most of all in how American students view international students.

International students are big part of life at Dickinson. In most of the classes I’ve taken here there has been at least one student not from the United States. Despite there being such a large number of international students they are still viewed as “outsiders”. I believe this is due to classic American values that people who are not from America originally are different and therefore should be treated as outsiders.  Even certain groups of international students are treated more as outsiders than other groups.

For example, 26 of my teammates are international students.  I consider some of them to be my closest friends on the team and at school in general. I feel the main reason that I don’t see my international teammates as outsiders is because of our shared experiences. Like me, they are here because of football. They go through the same practices and lifts as me and because of this I feel a closer bond with them than even some American students at school. They also are all from European countries. This I However, I have seen that the rest of the international students are seen as “outsiders”. I have found that many of them are seen as just a collective group and not individuals. To us they are all the same and many of us do not take the time to get to know them as individuals. I have found that this doesn’t just extend to how the American students view the international students.

In my three years here one thing I have noticed is a divide between students athletes and regular students. Many student athletes here the regular students as “others”. The same can be said for how regular students view student athletes. This stems from basic human nature. With there being so many athletes at Dickinson, almost a quarter of the students here are on a sports team, it is normal for regular students to view them as others. These view’s of people who are different as others also affects how we interact with people from other cultures.

In today’s world everyone has access to the media. While this can be a good thing for exposing people to different cultures and schools of thought it can also negatively affect our view of certain cultures. For example, many Americans have a negative view of the Middle East that stems from its depiction in media and what we see on the news. The main perception in the US is that the Middle East is full of terrorists that hate America which is false. Peoples perception of the region is skewed because of what they have seen in TV. This is one of the ways that viewing people as “others” or “outsiders” can have a negative effect.

Viewing people as “others” removes the ability to view them as individuals. It feeds into someone’s personal bias of a culture and doesn’t let them view the person they are talking to as a person with their own unique personality. Instead they will be viewed as an international student who doesn’t want to waste time talking to American students or a student athlete that is a dumb meathead who’s only worried about his sport. This view negatively affects our ability to communicate and learn from each other as we stop viewing people as individuals. The act of viewing someone as an “other” or “outsider” can have very negative consequences.


One of the most prominent differences I observed during the breakout rooms was the environment of where I live compared to the students in the UAE. Many of the AUS students talked about how hot and arid the UAE is. They specifically described how most people in the UAE travel during the summer in order to escape the heat. I noted how this was similar to people traveling during the winter in the US in order to escape the cold. One thing that resonated with me here was how similar our cultures are. In the UAE as in the US travel is used as a form of both escapism and learning. In my breakout room one of the students who was studying abroad talked about how his decision to study in Sharjah was so he could learn more about a culture he knew very little about. Another student talked about how she enjoyed travel because she loved to bring new things back with her and shared a scarf she had just purchased while traveling. Many discussed having to travel from a different county for school which I found very surprising. I thought it would be similar to the US in that most of the students were from the UAE. Instead there were multiple students from different counties like Jordan, Italy and even the US. This I found surprising as it isn’t as common in the US for students to attend a university in a different country for all four years.

Another common value I noticed in our discussions was that of family. One student shared a necklace that here grandmother gave her that she never takes off. One student talked about how she put an olive tree down for her pin because her family member grows olives in Jordan. Another student discussed how the biggest thing he missed about home was his mother’s cooking. The importance of family was very prominent in our discussions. Many talked about items given to them by grandparents or pets they had back home. One big discussion point was missing our families. It seems that this is a universal experience for all college students.

One difference that was discussed in length within my breakout room was how the US views Middle Eastern countries. We talked about how US citizens usually see Middle Eastern countries purely through the geopolitical lens. Many do not see them as individual countries but rather as the same geopolitical entity. We then discussed how this view can narrow down one’s opinion of the Middle East. We talked about how this view can be damaging as it only enforces western stereotypes of the region. People begin to look at countries for their strategic importance rather than its culture or history. This helped me see the danger of looking at the Middle East through the geopolitical lens.

In conclusion, I noticed significantly more similarities than differences in myself and the students at AUS. We all share similar values and our worldviews differ very little. One thing I did notice was that my expectations were shattered by the students at AUS. I did not expect so many students from different countries outside of the UAE. I also did not expect them to be so similar to me in values. This discussion showed me how little I actually know about the region and the people who live there. I learned that I need to start seeing the region outside of a geopolitical perspective and instead look at it from a cultural perspective. I look forward to learning more form the students at AUS and hope to teach them more about the US as well.

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February 1, 2024

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