A letter request from a girl from India. An appointment with an Ethiopian student. A phone call from a French Professor. This is a normal day at the Office of International Services, where I began working as an Assistant a few weeks ago. Every day is a learning experience, not only about procedures and forms (I-20s and DS-2019s; OPTs and CPTs; COEs and RCLs –this country really loves acronyms), but most importantly about the world that surrounds me and that I am so privileged to be a part of.
In our office at L5 Whittier Hall, the world comes together in the shape of international students, proud ambassadors of their countries of origin, who have jumped through hoops to make it to Teachers College. One place, many dreams. One place, many life stories. One place, many plans for the future. If you look beyond the forms in all different color papers, you will see a Fulbright scholar who wants to learn about Neuroscience and Education, a middle-aged woman who raised her family and decided she wanted to go back to school to study Instructional Media or a college graduate fresh out of school who just could not wait to get her MA in Clinical Psychology so she could help out the kids she cares so much about.
Hopefully, they too will see my story, the one behind the girl sitting at the Front Desk. A girl who makes a copy of their passport and discovers a country that she had not heard of before, like Gabon and its beautiful coastline in West Africa. A girl who pulls a student file from the Philippines and realizes his first name and last name are also of Hispanic origin, because they too were colonized by Spain. A girl who listens to a boy praise the wonderful hospitality of the people in Uruguay, her country. But above all, a girl who is living her dream of studying –and now also working– at Teachers College, right in the heart of New York City.
My advice to you, dear reader: do you want to learn Mandarin? Go get coffee with your Chinese classmate. Do you want to know about the students protests in Chile? Ask that girl from Santiago that you sit next to in your Thursday class. Do you want to see the world without leaving the school premises? Just wander about the halls, the library, the café, our office. Don’t just read from a book. Open your eyes and look around you! You are a citizen of the global community at Teachers College. Take advantage of it!
Lucia Caumont is an international student from Uruguay. She is currently in the first year of the Master of Arts in Comparative and International Education, with a concentration in anthropology.