Like most Americans, I have spent the last week scouring the media for news about the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers. I’m very relieved that investigators and public informants have solved this terrible crime. However, I hope that we will not conclude that all young immigrants are dangerous. Instead, I hope that we will reach out to help troubled young people from other countries.
I taught English and women’s studies at eight different colleges and universities for nearly four decades. I have worked with many students from all over the world. Some adjust quickly to living in a different culture and learning a new language. However, others are very homesick, feel isolated, have trouble with schoolwork, and feel alienated from American society. I don’t think that we do enough to help such young people.
For example, one of my former composition students, whom I will call Gagan, came to the United States from Nepal as a college freshman. He had excellent English language skills, and he started the semester well, getting A’s on all assignments and participating frequently in discussions. But then he stopped coming to class and stopped turning in assignments. I e-mailed Gagan and phoned him, but I got no response. Later, I found out that he had become depressed and withdrawn. Gagan was having trouble in all of his classes.
Unlike the two young men from Chechnya, Gagan did not exhibit any violent tendencies or hurt anyone. However, he suffered emotionally and came close to flunking out of college because he felt so isolated. Fortunately, the college staff reached out to Gagan, enabled him to secure late withdrawals in his classes, and supported him better during the second semester. I think that we professors and administrators often focus on lesson plans, grading papers, enrollment statistics, alumni donations, etc., and forget that some students live too far away to go home for Thanksgiving or see their families for support.
We need to engage counsellors, psychologists, social workers, teachers, administrators, and community groups to provide support networks for young people from other countries. We would need the same assistance if we had immigrated abroad.
Causes Janet Heller Supports
National Trust for Historic Preservation, Nature Conservancy, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Autism Speaks,