One thing I am enjoying so much about my new job is the diversity in the student body. About 35% of the student body are minority students. As I sit at the Reference Desk, answering questions, I have helped students of many ages and ethnicities. And I love it.
Last semester, I especially loved helping several Kenyan students. I was probably a little bit too enthusiastic, actually. I hope I didn't freak them out with my enthusiasm for their country and for East Africa.
I talked with one in particular about how I had traveled to many places in East Africa: Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Kigali, etc. We talked about Africa and the weather and the food. After talking about his home country, he said:
You must be so friendly because you have moved out. You have lived in Africa.
Those words meant so much to me, reminding me that my time in Uganda gave me the ability to connect with others.
Since then this student has stopped by many times to ask for help. He often tells me that people in America are not very friendly and he is thankful because I always talk to him. I help him with little things: saving documents to a flash drive, showing him how to find his assignments in the online course management system, etc. I look forward to his visits so much. He always greets me in Swahili and tries to teach me a new word or two.
And I am thankful.
And reminded of the importance of listening to students. Here, too, they all have a story.
May I always remember to listen.