A Small Bug and Blue Bed Covers

By Jailynne Estevez '21

Opening article for new column #FirstYearLens

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The young boys on the screen have died for a cause. They have become martyrs for a country torn open from the war and destruction. Nights on the street have been replaced with gunshots and fear. Their hearts thumping to their freedom chants. A small bug makes its way up the computer screen. Its black dot of a body traces the broken down buildings in the documentary. The bug falls back, the black rubber border of the computer creates a fortification for its crossing, the bug continues to dance against the dead bodies on the screen. It’s a Sunday night, and my roommate and I are watching The Return to Homs a documentary based in her hometown. My roommate and I were born 7,690 miles apart, her in Syria and I in Mexico. Being born in two different countries our backgrounds are immensely different. Yet in the small town of Bennington, Vermont we both are secured under the blue bed covers watching the computer screen and the bug’s small struggle.

With the start of a new term and school year, Bennington College welcomes its largest and most diverse class yet onto campus. This Fall term the College is welcoming 220 new students from 31 states and 26 different countries. Of those students 26% have international or dual citizenship, 21% are domestic students of color, and 20% are the first student in their family to attend college. These statistics bring us to consider and reflect on ourselves. How can we use our understanding of where we come from to understand others and their perspectives? How can we turn sympathy into empathy? How can we as Bennington students reach out to those coming from different backgrounds within our own community, in a political climate where there is the creation of borders through both political isolation and physical creation?

This new year is the chance to take advantage of the new diversity brought onto campus. Questions are a way for us to further understand someone else's perspective, by asking how we as individuals can learn more from the other person. It is important to keep in mind that sympathy and empathy are tricky concepts that are different. Empathy requires the acknowledgment that you as an individual will never fully understand what the other person has been through but are willing to accept that and be an ally or aid for that person. Listening without letting biases get in the way is another key element to understanding. Despite its simplicity, listening is hard. Listening to others’ points of view helps broaden yours. I ask my roommate questions about how she grew up and in return, I tell her my stories. We come from different backgrounds but have crossed paths through Bennington College.

The small bug disappears from the screen, and I resume my focus. For now, everything is calm under the blue bed covers.