Are there many organizations or communities for students of mixed ethnicities at state colleges? If not, how can a mixed student meet and connect with other people?

I'm going to be a freshman in college next year. I'm Indian, Swedish, and Native American/Cherokee. I know schools have organizations for students of particular races/ethnicities, but I don't know if they have them for multi-racial students. I don't think I'd feel comfortable in a group for international students because I'm not an international student and my family doesn't practice many cultural traditions. Is there another way for me to meet and bond with people who have a somewhat similar background as I do?

Answers

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

User avatar for Nedda Gilbert

The best way to feel comfortable given your background, and just as important your_ identity_, is to seek out a college that is as diverse and even international as possible. You mention you would not be comfortable with a mix of international students alone. I understand. However, their presence adds to the rich diversity of a school and suggests the college has made it a point to make their campus welcoming to a range of people and backgrounds. This IS the kind of campus you belong on - where the school ethos is clearly visible, and there is a comfortable vibe in the student body.

I can think of several schools where you would be one of many students - a sizable number - with a unique multi-cultural, multi-national, muti-racial background. Although you should research school life, demographic make-up and club offerings to identify organizations and groups you could possibly join at any given school, I don't think finding a few isolated clubs is an acceptable goal.

Seek out those schools where you will find many students like yourself, with a mix of unique backgrounds/ethnicities, where differences are not just embraced, but part of the daily face of the student population. Going to school with daily diversity is better than trying to seek out pockets of the student population, or just a multi-cultural center in which to feel comfortable. Why not feel comfortable in your dorms, in your classes, in everyday interactions? To get a sense of what this might feel and look like for you, perhaps you might visit some of these schools:

  • Columbia University (New York City)
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • New York University
  • Rice University
  • Rutgers University
  • UCLA
  • UC Davis, Santa Barbara, and Berkeley

These schools boast a mix of incredibly diverse students. The above list is by no means complete, nor are these your only options. But if you walk the campus of say UPenn or UCLA, you will at least have a sense of what it should look and feel life. The trick is to find a school authentically full of a happy mix of different types of students. Fortunately, there are plenty of them

Amanda Morris, College Professor, Writer, Advisor, Writing Coach

User avatar for Amanda Morris

As my fellow experts have pointed out, seek out the multicultural center (or whatever that unit is called on your campus) as a starting point. But more importantly, do not hesitate to create a student organization yourself with the help of like-minded friends! Just this past year on my campus, two students approached me to become one of their faculty advisors for a new multicultural student organization focused on community, advocacy, and activism for students who might not fit easily into other organization's structures. I teach Native American Rhetorics, so that is why they sought me out. I guarantee there are professors on your campus who would love to become an advisor to your newly created group. And if there are very few multicultural options for students, your student governing body will be thrilled that you decided to create one!

So remember, your educational experience is within your control. If you look around your campus and don't see the organization that you want to join - create it! And I promise you will discover very quickly that other students will join and seek you out because you are now providing a space and a community that wasn't there before. This is a powerful thing, and as a student, you have the power to create the world you want to live in.

Nikki Morgan, Tutor, Writer, Student Teacher. and Parent

User avatar for Nikki Morgan

To back up what Nedda said, I think visiting the campuses you're interested in is important. I was looking for a school with a diverse student population when I was applying for undergraduate programs, but I ultimately decided to go to the school which offered me the most funding. This was a mistake. I never visited the school I went to before I arrived for orientation, diversity on campus was incredibly low, and the curriculum was very Euro-centric. There was a multicultural center on campus where I found most of my friends, and I joined African-American society (even though I am actually Native American), and SOAR (Students Organized Against Racism). Despite the fact that I did find friends and a sense of community in these clubs and at the multicultural center, I felt alone and even discriminated against in my classes, in public areas on campus, in the dorms, at parties, etc. From my mistakes, I can see retrospectively that I would have benefited from visiting the college before I applied and choosing a school based on more (e.g. diversity!) than funding alone.

Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T, Author. Speaker. CEO.

User avatar for Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T

In addition to what Colleen has said, you could also research the state colleges you are interested in attending by visiting the institution’s website. There, you will find a Student Life section that will list the different ethnic clubs and organizations that the college has to offer. You may also find the multicultural center listed there as well. Looking at the college websites will give you an opportunity to learn a little bit about the clubs and organizations that are available before you arrive on campus.

Joining an academic, social, political or recreational group is also another way of meeting and possibly connecting with other students.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

User avatar for Colleen Clemens

Your question is such an important one! There are so many ways to connect with students on campus. You are right that an international student will have different needs and that you might want a different kind of experience in connecting with others. Most campuses will have a multicultural center on campus. This center should offer you programs, resources, and opportunities to connect with other students. The center may be called something else, but seek it out. They serve a need in the community, as this article argues.

Your Answer