My take on Luther’s diversity and inclusivity

Disclaimer: This is a personal experience of the author and does not reflect the perspective of all Luther international students. Please read it with that in mind.  


When I ask most of my Vietnamese friends about their perceptions of the United States, a common thing that comes to their minds is diversity. Most of them, like me, are impressed by how many different nationalities and races are represented here; that was one of the reasons why I chose to study here. I wanted to immerse myself in a uniquely diverse community where people of different backgrounds and cultures come together to live and learn in the same place. However, after months of living here, my relationship with the U.S. shifted a little bit. It is not entirely clear how I am feeling right now, but my trust in complete diversity has been affected.


After my 24-hour flight to the U.S., I met my international friends. That was the first time I had seen so many foreigners in my life, so it was very thrilling and exciting for me to be in such a community like that. International students come to Luther before other first-years, so we had a period of time to get to know each other first. After that, I went on the Endeavor Together trip and met several American friends here. Little did I know, that was the only time I felt original and special enough in this community. 


Days after that, I started my Luther life. Unlike my expectations, those days were tough. It was hard for me to properly adapt to my surroundings and get used to the “American” way of life. The hardest part was probably getting to know people around me. Apart from my international friends, my American friends are quite different. Most students study music or play sports, and I don’t do any of those things, so it was tough to find a friend group that fit my interests. In class, sometimes I feel incredibly lost to follow everyone since the conversations are very America-centric, or oriented around American culture. I frequently feel like I am very uncultured, and sadly that was the same situation for some of my friends.


Above all that, I have not found a support system on campus to share my problems with others. Most people here did not have to work so hard to get into Luther, or fly across half of the earth to come here, so not many people empathize with my situation. At one point, I started to realize that to get myself adapted to a new environment, I have to accept sacrificing some of my originality to become part of the community. Sometimes I have to give up talking about Vietnamese food to learn more about what American people eat, or I need to listen to Vietnamese songs less so that I can have more conversations with friends about Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” (don’t worry, she is my ultimate favorite artist). 


The presence of international students at Luther is not a contribution to make it better, but rather an addition. Without us Luther might just be the same, since our presence is, surprisingly, not that significant. I did not want to fly here to be an American citizen, but to proudly say: “I am Vietnamese, and I am proud to work my way here.” Therefore, it is not my responsibility to assimilate, but to be a unique international student. The purpose of international students coming here is not just to receive an education, but to represent our country in the best way possible. We are proud to bring our passports here to the U.S. to contribute to this country’s incredible diversity. 

After wearing the Vietnamese áo dài in the International Students Fashion Show, I know that I am still a proud international student on campus. Looking at other international students enjoying their time, I know that we are all very unique and original in our own ways. If you are reading this and you feel like you have not known us enough, please take a moment to try. We are so willing to tell you more about our beautiful countries, and share our cultures with you. Thank you, international students, for making Luther more inclusive — not just diverse.