When you can't find what you're looking for, create it

by Saniya More

November 14, 2017

International student Saniya More shares her experience co-creating Globalists, a publication focused on cultural diversity and international perspective

When I arrived at the Newhouse School as a freshman two years ago, one of the first things I did was navigate through Syracuse University’s various publications.

I remember skimming past campus newspapers and fashion magazines. There was something specific I was looking for. I wanted to write for a publication geared towards international students, because as a student born in India and raised in Thailand, I wanted to be part of a platform that celebrated diversity of cultural thought.

After much searching, my efforts were not only unsuccessful, but also surprising: There wasn’t a single publication on campus that focused specifically on the international community.

"We were intimidated by the award-winning college newspaper and the several established magazines, with their quirky content and glossy pages, but we knew change had to start with someone. Why not us?" Saniya More

It made sense I guess—only about eight percent of Newhouse students come from outside the United States. Many of these students end up joining one of three reputable and respected student organizations: The Daily Orange, Jerk Magazine or CitrusTV, all of which focus primarily on campus and local news. Because of this, many international students may never find a platform on campus where they can talk about their cultural identities and what it’s like to be so far away from home.

I found myself following the path of those before me, and joined The Daily Orange and CitrusTV. I learned a lot from being involved, but also felt frustrated at times, especially when I tried pitching international story ideas to my editors. Many of them believed international news and perspectives weren’t as relevant as what was happening on campus. “But what about the international students here?” I wanted to ask. “Are we not a part of the community?”

As an international student with Indian citizenship, I struggled to find internships, work on-campus jobs and apply for scholarships. Most of my professors weren’t aware of specific international student restrictions and requirements. For example, if an international student does a particular number of internships, the student could lose a visa extension that would have given them more time in the United States to look for a job after graduation.

I felt an utter disconnect from many of my American peers, especially in classes where we discussed American society, culture and perspectives. I remember calling my mom upset over a less than perfect grade I had gotten on a current events quiz in COM 107 during my freshman year. I’d aced the global news section but when it came to cultural references and local news, my mind had drawn a complete blank.

A photo of Hanna Benavides and Saniya More
Hanna Benavides and Saniya More

One of my closest friends at SU, Hanna Benavides, also went through a similar experience. As a student from Mexico, she too failed to find a place on campus where she could share her perspective and embrace others’ points of view. We would often discuss how unfortunate it was that international students didn’t really have a voice.

And then, halfway through sophomore year, it struck us: instead of complaining, we could put our heads together and come up with our own publication. When we first thought of this idea, it scared us. At the time, we were not even halfway through our education. We thought we didn’t have enough experience or the right skillset. We were intimidated by the award-winning college newspaper and the several established magazines, with their quirky content and glossy pages, but we knew change had to start with someone. Why not us?

During the summer before our junior year, we began brainstorming. We talked with advisers and planned what we wanted our publication to look like. When the school year started, we hit the ground running. We found a faculty adviser, gathered some of our friends together and developed a website.

Our original mission was to start a publication aimed at SU’s international community. We wanted to talk about the struggles and accomplishments of international students-- content that we thought only the international community would really identify with.

Up until that moment, we had every intention of creating an international student publication run by international students. But we realized that instead of giving other international students like us a voice to be better understood by the community, we were actually just isolating them further by creating a publication that  only catered to them.

Also, there are many students on campus who may not have international student status, but do have unique cultural experiences. When Hanna first came to SU, she was an international student from Mexico. A year later, she received her American citizenship. But that didn’t mean she now identified as simply American. As she writes:

“When people ask me where I’m from, despite my complex and confusing cultural identity and background, I undoubtedly answer, ‘Mexico.’ It’s the country where I was born and where I’ve lived for the past six years. But according to a piece of paper, I am not an international student anymore. But am I not really? I was born abroad, have lived abroad my entire life, don’t have a permanent address and am not even registered as a resident of any state in the U.S. In many ways, I can relate to international students more than I can relate to domestic students. And because of my complex cultural identity and background, I’ve been deeply immersed in both my own ‘native’ culture and American culture.”

For this reason, we named our publication Globalists, because we think it is a term that can describe anyone with a cultural identity, regardless of where they are from. We realized one didn’t have to be a non-American to have a conflicted cultural identity. We decided to create a platform where the entire SU community could talk about cultural and social issues to inform and educate each other—to understand each other’s differences and thus, create a more welcoming college atmosphere for everyone.

Globalists is still a work in progress, but it is also something I helped start. It’s my mark on Newhouse. Maybe it will be yours, too.

If you’re interested in joining the Globalists team, email Saniya More. Students from all years, majors and backgrounds are welcome!

Nov. 13-17 is International Education Week. Read more>>

Saniya More is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.