I’m a program advisor for a third-party study abroad provider. What this means is that I don’t work with the home university or the host university, but I work with both and offer the students extra support throughout the process of going abroad. Typically this means sending middle-to-upper-class white U.S.ians over to middle-to-upper-class areas in countries where most of their classmates are also white. The mix of students who (1) are really hoping to better themselves and increase their exposure to diffferent cultures and ideas, (2) feel their tuition checks entitle them to a six-month overseas vacation with straight As at the end, and (3) just want to party is about 30/40/30.

Today I spoke to an advisor at a U.S. university who heard from a student of hers currently attending a school in New Zealand. It’s my favorite school, actually, because I studied there myself. (I was mostly (1) and a little bit (3), so my grades weren’t stellar, but I knew that was because I didn’t put in the work that was required to get better ones. That’s pretty much how I roll.)

This student wanted to drop a class for several reasons, he said, including the fact that each lecture was given by a different person, and they were all “biased.” I wasn’t entirely sure what that word meant in this context (how can a university lecturer be biased, much less a dozen of them?) until I realized that the class the student wanted to drop was an intro to Maori studies class. And then I thought, well yes they’re biased. They’re presenting a minority view.

I can’t even begin to imagine what this student means when he says that the Maori lecturers are biased in an intro to Maori class. He’s entirely new to NZ culture, so he hasn’t had the chance to determine that his experiences contradict the claims of the lecturers. So I have to wonder, what the heck was this kid doing to earn poor grades that he thinks he can blame on the lecturers biases?

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