Do I Really Fit In?

Hannah Cho DSC_2973James Ahn, News Writer

Nothing crushes the heart more than the realization that you do not belong. GSIS is constantly plagued with the stigma that it lacks diversity within the student body. Could this be a simple dissatisfaction or has there been a lack of proper student conduct?

The monstrosity of this issue is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The need for racial variety has left GSIS’ upper secondary (USS) almost completely dominated by Korean students with 9 out of 10 GSIS USS students being ethnically Korean. As a result, foreign students cannot help but feel a barrier between themselves and the Korean students.

Yet, the divide at times, seems to pierce deeper than ethnicity and exists between cultural exposure and language as well.

I myself have difficulty explaining the unmistakable feeling of alienation. Despite the fact that my Korean ethnicity gives me a similar look to most other students, my identity does not conform to that of the Korean culture due to the fact that I was born in America, am an American citizen, and have spent the majority of my life in Canada. In fact, my first experience living in the country of my ethnicity was two-years ago. As such, much of my identity, values and beliefs are tied to the North American culture. Thus, for the sake of argument, I call myself a foreigner though I may not look like one.  

One student who wished to remain anonymous said, “Considering that this [GSIS] is an international school, it’s strange that I have to deal with a language barrier [not being able to speak Korean].”

Between the ethnicity, culture, and language divides that exist within the culture of an international school, I wondered if there really is a dominant social group in the school or if we are making this divide on our own pretenses and fears of not being accepted by others. If so, is it dominated by ethnicity, language, or culture? Is there a solution to the current impasse? Can this perpetual cycle of detachment ever be overcome?  

One student who wished to remain anonymous, expressed the lack of belief in a dominant majority “I don’t really feel like we’re [Korean students] a majority because we’re split up too. I know there’s different groups so we’re not together; which means we’re not a majority.”

However, not all Korean students shared this view. One student who wished to remain anonymous, said that they are the majority of the population, referring to the upper secondary Korean population as a “big group.”

Evidently, not all Korean students are united on their views of their social dominance. Could this mean that we, ourselves, are to blame for our feelings of segregation and loneliness?

One student said that they were “afraid of approaching them [Korean male students], seeing them as being aggressive, active, negative, and physical with each other.” Could this first impression become the root of the apprehension that ultimately prevents foreign students from reaching out of their comfort zone?

“We’re just playing around,” said one Korean student who wished to stay anonymous. “I think maybe it looks too harsh when you’re watching without knowing what’s happening.”

Other Korean students shared similar views as this student. Nobody thought that they were overly aggressive and physical to their peers. In this case, is there a fault in our preconceptions of how we will be treated?

Amidst these challenges, I am not alone in my afflictions. While there may not be many, others like myself who have adopted the cultures of different countries, share in my suffering.

However, just as I have begun to reach out to my social group, we must open up to people. While division may be the result of how we are treated by culturally Korean students, we should also consider the factor of our fear of approaching culturally Korean students.

Therefore, I can conclude that this division is about more than just ethnicity but more about personality and finding the individuals who develop you into a better person, challenge, you, support you, and look out for you.