SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2008        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Belma Ceric

The Unreachable Research Class: A Haunting in Two Acts

A year ago I was looking to take a Research class to help me get into graduate school and I decided to go and ask one of my professors if he would let me get into his psychology lab. I chose to write about this incident because it was very meaningful and significant to me for the reason that I felt as though I had been discriminated against because I was not an “American” and because my vocabulary of “professional” words was not sufficient. That truly hurt my feelings since I believe that everybody should get treated equally regardless of where they come from or how sufficient their English is or not. This challenge to my identity also tapped into a deeper memory of a similar challenge by a border guard when my family was leaving Bosnia after the war.

When I went to talk to my professor he started questioning me about whether I had already taken all the prerequisite classes and I told him “yes”. And then he said “well you need to have received an A in all of the prerequisite courses if you want to get into this class”. I told him that I had received an A in all of them and I could tell by his facial expression that he was very surprised and shocked at my answer. As I was sitting across from my professor, I could smell this strong aroma coming from a tall cup of coffee that was sitting on his task. I remember it smelling really good, similar to chocolate chip mocha. It smelled so good to the point that I wanted to drink a cup of coffee myself. The drink was so hot that it had steam coming out. Since I love the smell and taste of chocolate, I truly started craving that coffee of his. At that point I was already mad and angry, since I knew that it was not true that I needed to receive an A in all the prerequisite courses. In fact, all I needed was to have passed them with a grade of C or better.

As I waited for his response, time stood still as if in suspense. I remember hearing many different sounds as I was sitting in my professor’s office. One of those sounds included people walking down the hallway and some talking as well. Other sounds consisted of both of our chairs squeaking at times or the noise of the computer mouse going click, click as he would look up certain items online. I do remember however, the sounds not bothering me at all because I’m the type of person who’d rather hear just about any sound than be in complete silence. Nonetheless I began to feel a little queasy.

I recognized the young girl sitting on a chair talking to her professor about getting into his supervised research class. She seemed very upset about what the professor was telling her and I can tell that she sensed me being there in the room with them. She could not physically see me standing right behind her but I was there, and she knew it. She could feel the breeze of air caressing her back. I could tell that she felt very weird and uncomfortable since she had that expression on her face as if to say “is my mind just playing tricks on me or is there a ghost in this room”? At that moment I started to speak.

I can not believe how under appreciative you are. Instead you being grateful that you came to this country that everybody dreams about coming to, and where they offer one of the best educations in the world, you are over here complaining about a small assignment that this professor is asking you to do. You young lady, should be ashamed of yourself. I knew she had recognized that deep and sharp voice of mine immediately. She thought to herself, “this is that guard who was at the border when my family and I were coming to the United States”, but she did not say anything. She did not want her professor to think that she was crazy, which every person in their right mind would have thought.

The professor eventually told me if I was serious about getting into his research class, I needed to “prove” to him  that I was capable of summarizing research articles so, he wanted me to do so by turning in two summarized articles to him. Something that I wished for while I was in my professor’s office was to simply walk out of there and I also wished that I could be back at home in Bosnia. I felt like walking out since I was mad and angry because, I did not like what he told me. Additionally, I did not want to be lied to about having to have received A’s in all of the prerequisite classes before I could get into his class. I felt discriminated against because I was a foreigner and not an American. This is another reason why I wanted to be back to Bosnia at that moment.

 She continued to talk and listen to what her professor had to say but in the back of her mind she was thinking to herself “what is this man doing here talking to me in this manner? He does not even know me, except for those few minutes when my family and I were crossing the Bosnian border to come to the U.S.” I know she just felt like telling me to shut up and go away, but that is when I continued talking. I do not believe that this man is asking you to do this assignment because he wants to be mean to you, does not believe in you or because you are a foreigner and do not speak English as good as an American born child does. I think he is doing this because it is part of his job and because he wants and expects the best of his students.

I went home mad that day because I knew that no other professor would have asked of their student to do this task, and I also knew that it was not required for a student to summarize two research articles in order for him/her to get into that particular class. At that moment I knew that I did not wish to be in his class anymore where I knew I was not welcomed. I felt sad since I had a feeling of anger that the only reason why this professor wanted me to summarize two articles for him before he would let me get into his psychology lab, was because he did not believe in me.

I knew she disagreed with me and did not like what I was telling her but I still made sure that I made my last comment before I left. I know the only reason why you feel the way you do right now is because you are really mad and angry, just think about it. I know deep inside you know just as much as I do that you are a very lucky girl to be in this country and not in Bosnia struggling to survive every day like the rest of the people. You know how many other girls wish they could trade places with you? You need to stop complaining and do what this professor is asking you to do. It is only in your best interest. Education means everything just remember that. This man is not discriminating against you in any way.

When I look back at my incident now, I still feel the same way about it. One possible explanation for my incident however, could be that it was supposed to remind me that life is not always fair and situations such as these are going to occur. Furthermore, it could also be likely that my professor was just doing his job and that he treats all of his students similarly. There are many possible interpretations for this incident yet, I cannot help feeling the same sort of shock and frustration as when a border guard challenged my family’s identity when we were leaving Bosnia.


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