To be completely honest, moving to a totally different country to study as an international student, is terrifying. However, while the thought of being on your own in a new environment, away from your parents, from your comfort zone, is scary, it is also exciting. I actually felt more eager to be in university, meeting new people and experiencing new opportunities, than scared. But, after hearing about the incident involving BLS (Bracton Law Society) last year, I was really taken aback and wondered if I had made the right choice by putting Exeter as my firm choice of university. However, thinking on a different perspective, I realised that this incident might have helped to uncover racism and raise awareness of diversity in the University.
The first day of Fresher’s Week turned out to be quite different to how I was expecting it to be; it reassured me that I had made the right decision- although, it was still intimidating with lots of awkward eye contact. Seeing all the different societies, from the LGBTQ+ community to international societies made it so much easier for me and fellow students to find groups of like-minded people with similar thoughts and interests.
As a Vietnamese, coming from an Asian background, it has been so lovely to meet many fellow Vietnamese students, whom are just the most welcoming people I have met. I was relieved when I found the Viet Society’s booth. It was a feeling of finding home in a strange place, like being on an adventure but still receiving comfort from people from your home country. To be able to participate and celebrate Vietnam’s traditional holidays in the UK has been the best cure for homesickness, making me feel mentally closer to home and my family, despite the physical distance. I had the chance to join the Mid-Autumn Festival with the society. It had a lovely familiar atmosphere and amazingly delicious mooncakes, which were, hands down, the highlight of the night.
On the surface, Exeter may look predominantly white, middle-class and British, however, diversity does exist within the university campus. With more than 15 societies that celebrate different Asian countries’ cultures, it is undeniable that the diversity in the Asian community is growing rapidly. Not only do societies promote their represented countries individually but also collectively, through holding joint events for cultural exchange and celebration of Asian cultures as a whole. The Asian Society has been growing widely, especially through collaborating with several societies, so that members can experience various cultures and get to understand more deeply the differences and similarities between Asian countries.
The Asian community here are also open to anyone from any ethnic backgrounds to join, not limiting it to the nationality with which they identify. This has opened up more opportunities for many students who are not from an Asian background to participate and widen their horizons through meeting a more diverse group of people. The numbers of non-Asians involved in these societies has increased, showing that many want to learn about new cultures and that diversity still exists and is growing in our University campus.