International students give war a different perspective

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

This is the first in a three part series examining the feelings of Troy State international students about the current war in Iraq. Today's piece offers an overview of the student's views on war and life in the United States during a time of conflict.

Life in another country

can be disorienting, confusing and alienating. Away from familiar cultures, languages, families and friends, international students studying at Troy State University must create a home away from home as they pursue their studies - a task made a bit more difficult when their host nation is waging a war overseas.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A series of interviews with several of TSU's international students offer insight into the thoughts of young people visiting the United States from abroad and a window into the world's worries about the current war in Iraq.

A View From Armenia

Anna Hovsepyan is from Armenia and is in Troy to get a master's degree in environmental science. She came to the United States in 1999 and harbors mixed feelings about the war.

&uot;I'm afraid of it, but it's hard for me to say I'm strongly for or against it.&uot;

Still, she said that her concerns about the legitimacy of America's war could make her a target for accusations of anti-Americanism.

&uot;People say it's not patriotic to protest,&uot; she said. &uot;If a person believes everything the president says, it might seem unpatriotic, but if you are just expressing an opinion and not hurting anybody and aren't putting down the soldiers, it's OK.&uot;

Hovsepyan talks to her father in Armenia, who often watches television coverage of the war. He said life in Armenia has not substantially changed since the onset of the war, although there have been several public protests at embassies against the war in Iraq.

Many Armenians link the American war against Iraq to their own political causes, Hovsepyan said. For example, many Armenians are calling attention to Turkey's refusal to base American troops, hoping to convince the U.S. government to officially recognize the genocide committed by Turks against Armenians from 1890-1915.

As for reaction by Americans during wartime, Hovsepyan said many Troy residents have been inquisitive

and seek an international perspective on the war.

&uot;More people ask the opinions of international students now. Americans are very curious. They ask what my family thinks,&uot; she said. &uot;Most Americans live in their own world, but they are curious and try to expand their horizons. People like to learn and ask me for my opinions.&uot;

The experience is not a universal one for international students.

Vlad Serban, who is studying computer science at TSU, is from Romania.

Serban said he had not encountered any inquisitive Americans.

&uot;Actually, nobody has asked me about the war until now,&uot; he said.

He said none of his friends had encountered xenophobia or discrimination since the start of the war, but he did describe the American reaction to foreigners as &uot;sublime paranoia.&uot;

A View From Romania

Serban takes issue with the new American policy of pre-emptive attacks on other nations.

&uot;I don't like it. It's like saying 'I'm walking down the street and I think that you might one day kill me, so I have to shoot you right now.'&uot;

Of particular concern to Serban are situations around the world where conflicts continue to simmer. Pakistan and India exchanged nuclear detonations last week as the conflict over Kashmir continued to escalate and spill over into hot war in South Asia.

&uot;It sets a bad precedent for other countries like Pakistan that may want to start wars. They think they are being threatened and they'll attack and say 'The U.S. did it so we can do it.',&uot; he said.

Serban said war was not the right solution to the problems posed by Iraq.

&uot;Saddam Hussein is a stupid idiot, but America should have waited,&uot; Serban said. &uot;You could solve the problem through other means.&uot;

Editor's Note: On Thursday The Messenger will publish part two of the series and will examine the views of TSU international students about getting rid of Saddam Hussein, post-war Iraq and the media's coverage of the war. On Friday, part three will offer insight into the students' opposition to the war and the lack of protest on Troy State's campus.