Archana Adhikari ’23
It was Friday during lunch when I went to Mather dining hall, hungry and tired from four classes in a row. I swiped my card at the door and went inside straight to the table in front of the smoothie station, which is where I usually sit for all three meals of the day. My regular friends were having lunch there. I put my bag down, sat in the chair and started listening to their discussion. Meanwhile, a Latinx friend of ours waved at us and passed by our table. One of my friends at the table said that she does not like to sit with us anymore as she has found friends with whom she shares many commonalities.
My eyes followed her, and she sat two tables next to us with other three Latinx students. I looked over our table: out of seven people at our table, five of us were born in Asia and the other two in the U.S. Clearly, our table was mostly people who share similar cultural and national backgrounds with each other, and we all sit at the same table every day.
After observing our table, I was curious to know the situation of other tables in Mather. I stood up to get some food, but this time I not only wanted to get food, but also looked around the group of people sitting in Mather. As I walked around the dining hall with pizza in my hand, I noticed nine to ten Chinese students having lunch together by attaching two round tables together. I looked at the high stools in front of our table. That long row of highchairs was full of African-Americans. Those scenes of self-segregation disturbed me during lunch, but I forgot them after I left Mather and ran to my research lab.
Later that night, I revisited that memory. I googled “Demographics in Trinity College” and a website popped up which showed that Trinity College represents seventy countries across the world. But what one can observe at the dining hall does not show that we are benefitting from those diverse experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds of people from all corners of the world. People who share a nationality are more likely to befriend each other. Now I am not saying that people who share national or cultural backgrounds are only friends with each other, but I am saying that there is more to learn from this diverse group of people in our college than we do.
I wondered how my own table has a majority of Asian nationals when I so much wanted to experience, explore, and learn from different cultures and peoples before coming to Trinity. The only thing that answered this question was the creation of a “comfort zone.” Even though I want to learn from the new people, I end up in a group of people like myself as I share many similar interests with the people who share a common background with me and, subconsciously, I feel more comfortable around those people.
I want to break this comfort zone and be a part of the change, but here I am sitting as if someone else would initiate the change for me, as if someone else would invite me for lunch at their table, as if someone else would drag my chair and move it to the different tables. By this time, I should know that if I want change, I need to take the initiative by myself to talk to people different from me, to show enthusiasm in learning from their experiences, and appreciate their culture. Next time I am in Mather, I want to feel comfortable to join someone else’s table or invite someone else to our table for lunch. And I hope this initiative will be helpful to other people who feel the same way as I do.
You make a valid observation, but it will change only when we all are willing to get out of our comfort zones and sit with those we don’t know or feel close to. Of course, now is bad timing!