I have no friends of Eastern Asian descent in St Andrews. I have Indian friends, Latin American friends, even a South African friend. I know that I am not the only one in this university who has this amity situation. And I think this is a shame. In both my primary and high school I had many friends of Asian background and they were were (generally) erudite, humorous and genuine individuals. This is why it saddens me that I have not had a similar experience here.
Obviously it would be fallacious to suggest that I furtively sneak down Market Street trying to locate Asians to go over and befriend. Friendships are unfortunately not so easily manufactured. And I am not so racially conscious that I feel the need to tick ethnic boxes for my friendship circle. Yet, I like to think that I am not a complete social hermit and that I frequent the Union and Starbucks a decent amount. At least, enough to rub elbows with over 10% of the student body.
However, in my three years at this university I can count on one hand the encounters I have had with Asian students. This is not to say that I, or many others in St Andrews, disregard those that do not speak English as their first language. At the gym I’ve befriended a guy from Senegal, in halls I found interesting people that came from Poland and Italy. So it perplexes me as to why such interaction with such a large part of St Andrews has been non existent to myself and many others.
For those of you that accuse my sentiments as being racist, I fear that you have completely misread, and thus, misunderstood my point. I am putting forward a conversation that we in St Andrews should seriously consider. We, as a community, need to examine whether there is anything we can do to better integrate Asian students into the social fabric of this university. This is of course assuming that they would be interested in such an option, so I understand this solution may seem arrogant on my part. However, I think greater social integration, at any level of society, leads to a more knowledgeable, supportive and solidary community.
I am not angry at the Asian population of St Andrews for not being my friend. And this article is certainly not xenophobic in its intentions. I understand that if I was to go to university in Beijing and there was a large conglomerate of English speaking students, I would primarily keep company with them. I appreciate that familiarity in a foreign land is a special refuge. Growing up, I spent a year on a Micronesian island where my family was one of three ‘white’ families and in my teenage years I lived in Australia for eight years as an American. I understand that these differences are nowhere near as alien as an Eastern individual living in the West would be, but I can (at least ostensibly) recognise that being a foreigner abroad is a daunting endeavour.
I am writing this article to bemoan the fact that I feel, rather selfishly, that I’m missing out on learning about different cultures and people. This is what makes university such an eye opening experience, meeting individuals that you otherwise would have never encountered. I want to hear what it is like to live under the Chinese Communist Party or what decades of stagnation in Japan actually feels like. Outside of the classroom and the library, this is the greatest asset in which university gives to its students – the ability to personally come to appreciate and sympathise with differing ways of life and individuals.
It is this lack of familiarity and connection that I lament, not that I think Asians are incapable of social interaction. So please, be my friend.