A Diverse Look at WVU: Susmita Patel

Traveling miles from home to go to college can be taxing on anyone, especially when it’s internationally. As I discussed in my last post, West Virginia University has many clubs and organizations based solely around diversity and students of different cultural backgrounds. One of those clubs is called the Indian Students Association, or as members like to call it, ISA. The association is very active and includes about 400 students, often having dinners as well as get-togethers.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 52 PM

“The goal of the association is to provide a congenial atmosphere for the student community from India.”

I had the pleasure of speaking to a former member of the ISA here at WVU, Susmita Patel, as she clued me in on happenings of the association. Aside from helping to put on different dance performances for Tarang, Diwali, diversity week, Indian Independence Day and other student organizations, Patel says there is much more to the association than performing dances.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 47 PM

Luckily she has never felt out of place or discriminated against in Morgantown, and even expressed that no one she knows has felt that way either. A culture shock upon first stepping foot into Morgantown seemed rather normal and exciting to her, though some international students might not be as excited. Although it may seem extremely diverse to a typical student, international students may feel like there is nobody to call “friend” or even “family.”

Student organizations like the ISA take control as soon as these students get off of the plane from India. They do so by picking them up from the airport and arranging a place to live, and even easing them into other school activities. These student associations create somewhat of a niche for all students to form their home away from home, giving them a sense of security and people to hang out with that they can trust.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 49 PM

Patel went on to tell me that every semester the ISA helps the new students from India to integrate into the social norms of the United States, especially if it’s their first time being here. It can be very scary, and can cause feelings of disorientation. To help with the transition, ISA holds an event called Freshers that acts as a type of icebreaker among the existing and new students.

“Freshers is very helpful, especially because they can find their place amongst potential friends, this way no one feels out of place or like that have to change themselves to fit in.”

The Freshers party is a huge way to combat feelings of not fitting in. The current students show the ins and outs, regarding social norms or even school work. Both parties, new students and old, benefit from each other during this process making integration much simpler.

American-born students still hold to the cultures and traditions of their ethnic backgrounds, though they may not completely understand the real cultural meaning behind some of the traditions, like language. This is Photo Nov 22, 12 56 40 PMwhere the international students can really help the more Americanized students in understanding their culture. On the other hand, the American students help the international students to lighten up and have a little fun, teaching them to become more outgoing and to open up socially.

Diversity clearly affects everyone in a positive way. Let’s hope we can show our loving spirit over the next few years and welcome even more international students to the Mountaineer family!

If you or someone you know would like to connect with ISA members, visit their Facebook page!

-All photos from Susmita Patel.


5 thoughts on “A Diverse Look at WVU: Susmita Patel

  1. This is a great post! I knew that there were some international student groups, but I never knew what they really did or that they were as active as the ISA. The fact that they step into action as soon as someone gets to Morgantown with transportation and living I think is awesome! You did a really great job of showing the culture and I think that the interview made it even better.

  2. I love how diverse WVU is; I can honestly say it’s shaped my college experience. I’d love to find out more about the different international clubs on campus, and you’ve shown you really know how to make a great post about them. Looking forward to your next feature!

  3. I think this post is really good, and I’d like to see more diversity posts on this blog. Maybe you can make a part three that highlights all the students organizations on campus that deal with diversity, and perhaps do some interviews with active members or people who the groups affected.

  4. Karlea,

    I think that this is an issue at WVU that can and is overlooked by those of us from the US, and more specifically, West Virginia. This place is just home to us, so that makes it difficult for us to have empathy for those who do not feel that way.

    I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to move to a different country being so young and learn to adapt to a completely different culture and language. I commend those that are able to do this. I think it is great that student organizations on campus work so hard to make these people feel at home, and give them the opportunity to make WVU as much of a home to them as it is to us.

  5. Well-written and a good central story. As I noted in email, the only issue is that this is kind of a one-source story. Especially when dealing with a subject like diversity, it’d be helpful to have some more voices and perspectives in there. That aside, you do bring in some pretty copious material to illustrate the bigger picture here, so there’s strong context.

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