Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Short Story of an Awkward Encounter.

March 3, 2010 · 2 Comments

“What are the chances?!” I continued to question, as I watched my mentee strip, shout, drink and dance (as if no one was watching) at Club Mercy last Thursday night. What were the chances of him and I bumping into each other at the club?! I guess I had forgotten how small Norwich really is… afterall, there are only but so many night clubs in the city center. Fortunately, we both maintained our distance, it was already awkward enough to see him outside of our formal meeting environments— especially when he was obviously intoxicated! In my attempt to set a good example, I refused to buy any drinks for myself, and even though we are close in age I felt a sense of motherly responsibility to address his behavior during our next meeting.

When we met the following week he insisted on starting our convo by discussing Thursday’s encounter; I conquered. Bekre claimed he wished we would have danced together, but I disagreed in response, tried to explain to him why I thought that was inappropriate but he insisted: “It’s just dancing!” But it isn’t just dancing when I have been trained to be someone he must respect, someone he can easily speak to and rely on, someone he can look up. It isn’t just dancing to me when he was clearly drunk— the chances of him crossing the line were high in my mind. A part of me felt like I was taking my role too seriously at this moment… I’m not too sure. But I believe there is a line that must be emphasized in any formal relationship. I think in the end he understood where I was coming from.

This encounter/discussion brought me to understand the some of the cultural differences between my mentee and I, as well as the ways in which he has been influenced by English culture in his nine months of residency in the UK. As we (Dickinson Humanities) have all learned over the past seven months, there are countless differences and similarities between English and American culture; as there between English and Ethiopian culture (where Bekre is from). Regardless of our known distinctive cultural upbringings/characteristics, we come together every week to share experiences, to support one another, to engage in intellectual conversations and motivational chats; NOT to boogie dance!  Besides, what are the chances of bumping into him at the club again!?!

Categories: Flow

2 responses so far ↓

  •   apower // Mar 3rd 2010 at 18:02

    Wow, that sounds like an uncomfortable situation, but you definitely handled it well. It is interesting to hear another example of the cultural differences though, what Americans vs. (in this case) Ethiopian consider appropriate behavior, it’s something that I’ve discussed briefly with some of my flatmates, and I’d be curious to hear what they’re opinion on this particular situation would be from an English perspective.

  •   Karl // Mar 4th 2010 at 08:23

    You were absolutely right, Flow. Boundaries are essential in any relationship like this. It doesn’t mean that friendships can’t blossom between mentors and mentees, but there needs to remain a professional distance lest one party read the signals incorrectly. Well done.

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