Juan: A dialogue with my freshman self


Dear freshman international students,

In America you will hear a lot of opinions about other country’s politics and culture, especially about third world countries’ ineffective governments. You will hear comments in the news, in sermons at church, in classes and when your friends return from a mission trip.

After hearing so many comments about other countries you will believe you are also free to openly make comments among your peers about politics in America. However, you might want to avoid this for a little bit. Wait until your friends are exposed to more things, wait until they have done internships in different states, spent their summers in communities at risk, have read more controversial books, or have travelled for more than two weeks in a foreign country.

Meanwhile, don’t express your political preferences too openly, especially if you are at Dordt during election times. Most Americans do not like foreign people commenting on “their own business.” They might even agree with you but your opinion still does not count—to them “you do not know how things work here”.

Even though you’ve followed American and worldwide politics all of your life and have good arguments to support your view, do not express it, the discussion won’t go anywhere and as soon as you present a valid and smart argument they will return to the comment “you do not know how things work here.” People here are ready to make radical political comments, but honestly most students do not care about politics. I learnt this during Obama and Romney’s debate in the presidential election of 2012, where comments criticizing the liberal side could be heard everywhere. However, during the debates I walked across the wings of my building, looked at the rooms and noticed that 95% of the kids were indifferent to what was being transmitted on national television. It was bizarre that all of the internationals of North Hall were watching the debate in the room of one African student.

This last point leads to another major point about politics. What if you sympathize with the minority liberal president of the United States? What If you followed his political career before he became a president?  What if you even read his autobiography before moving to the United States? Don’t say it. If you want to avoid further conflict, be smart. Obama is the devil in a place like Sioux Center. You will realize this fact as you overhear some students walking behind you in the campus center while they hypothesize about Obama being the antichrist. You definitely don’t want to be known as the guy who sympathizes with the antichrist (by the way, stay quiet if the antichrist ends up winning the elections. Lock yourself in your dorm and avoid showing any sign of contentment with the results).

But maybe you are braver than I.

Maybe you believe you are the one who has to expose your friends to different ways of seeing the world. Maybe you miss opposition. Maybe you no longer want to be comfortable or you are starting to feel sick of the easiness and uniformity of Sioux Center. Maybe it is time to express your opinions. Maybe you are no longer scared.


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