Around a year and a half ago, I learned of my acceptance to Andover via a PDF file sent to me at home in Japan. Word travelled fast and by the end of that week, everyone at my school had heard that I would be attending Andover. However, peoples’ congratulations and accolades were immediately followed by questions permeated by a sense of doubt and hesitation. I now realize that the general feeling of unease that loomed around the topic of transferring schools stemmed from a ubiquitous fear of Westernization in international countries.
The CAMD Scholar presentation of Djavaneh Bierwirth ’14 this past weekend brought up the issue of this same omnipresent fear of Westernization in “international” countries that I experienced firsthand after being accepted to Andover. As an international student from Japan, moving to Andover was a substantial change for me. Every aspect of my life has required some sort of adaptation, including seemingly trivial details like memorizing an entirely different system of measurements, food and language. I’ve come to realize that there is a difference between understanding a Western perspective and adopting it as your own. While some things like the measurement system are crucial for communication, we shouldn’t feel the need to sacrifice our identities just to fit a Western standard.
Finding the perfect balance of conformity and retaining our individuality can be difficult for Andover students, especially during this time of year when we start to fall back into the “Andover Bubble.” All Andover students are familiar with this “bubble.” From the day they matriculate, new students quickly bond over similarities and slowly start to conform to the many standards and precedents set by the community. Though these bonds are often life-long and incredibly enriching, our obsession with our similarities, and perhaps even our atmosphere, can trap us into forgetting our pasts by compelling us to stick to the status quo. This poses a threat to our individuality.
I am not alone in recognizing this attitude on our campus. Rebecca Somer ’15 agrees, explaining, “When I came my freshman year, naturally people bonded over their similarities. But often people forget and disregard the pasts, backgrounds and cultures that have shaped who we are.”
We need to further promote the opportunities that enable us to explore our identities, such as CAMD scholar programs, various clubs, conferences and research opportunities. There is a thin line between furthering our identity and replacing it with a new one.