What is the personal experience of people of colour at Edinburgh?

‘Someone called me a terrorist once at a party’


We know Edinburgh is spoken of as an international and culturally diverse university; one of the most in the UK,  but what is the personal experience of people of colour at Edinburgh?

I interviewed a group of racially and ethnically diverse students to see what their thoughts are on studying in Edinburgh.

 

Murid Laly, first year, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Afghan from London

What is your experience of race back home?

Back home, race is completely different to here. In London there are so many ‘others’ which makes what is different seem common, it’s easy to find commonality in your differences with people. The lived experience of my race and ethnicity in London didn’t feel incredibly violent or oppressive, although there is always that implicit subconscious bias that people have. But in London seem to understand you a bit more. Here, I feel more than ‘other’, than different. People in Edinburgh are a lot more apathetic to discourse about race.

Did you have any preconceived ideas about race in Edinburgh before coming to uni here?

I know it’s Scotland and people are mostly white here. I knew it wasn’t going to be so diverse, especially coming from London – I knew what I was getting into but didn’t know exactly what it was going to be like.

What role does your ethnicity play in your life at uni?

I’m drawn more towards people of colour socially, because they tend to be more interested in things I’m interested in. Particularly in relation to studying sociology; it discusses social injustices which most white people don’t want to talk about, because it doesn’t affect them.

Have you experienced racism at uni?

Someone called me a terrorist once at a party. They thought it was funny but I said “I don’t get the joke, can you explain it please,” and they didn’t. Racist comments and ‘jokes’ legitimise a racist system.

 

Nayeon Kang, second year, Chemistry, Korean

What is your experience of race back home? 

At home, the majority of people are Korean – so I never really thought deeply about my ethnicity, it never brought me any trouble in any way.

Did you have any preconceived ideas about race in Edinburgh before coming to uni here?

I know a girl from home who came to study at the university before me, who experienced racism in Edinburgh – when I heard her story I realised that Edinburgh may not be such a gentle city, but I haven’t experienced racism personally since being in Edinburgh.

What role does your ethnicity play in your life at uni?

Socially, I think that as an Asian foreign student I’m recognised to be foreign because of my appearance, whereas if I was from Finland or Germany it would be harder to distinguish whether I am from the UK or not. It’s not that annoying but I feel like it means that I can’t smoothly ‘fit in’, in some sense.

Have you ever experienced racism at uni? 

No.

 

Laila Juul-Dam, 19, first year, Medical Science, Asian – Indonesian and Caucasian – Danish

Laila Juul - Dam 1st Year, 19 Medical Science

What is your experience of race back home?

At home, people look up at light skinned people and view Caucasians as their ideal. So, I’ve been treated positively, almost looked up to and this ideology is entailed in the culture in Indonesia.

Did you have any preconceived ideas about race or ethnicity in Edinburgh before coming?

I came expecting a broad range of diversity and a multi-cultural environment, and I actually live in a flat where there are people with different nationalities. I was ready for cultural differences. I know that Edinburgh is one of the most international communities in the UK, so that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come.

What role does your ethnicity play in your life at uni?

As of right now I’m not really sure, I know there’s a small Indonesian community but there’s not a lot of awareness about who we are. A lot of people don’t even know where Indonesia is so that might be a problem. Whereas on the Danish side of things, people know where it is and are more aware of it. It does affect my friend groups, and the way people see me. If I say I’m from Indonesia, people might be like “you’re so exotic”. I hang out with a lot of people of colour because I think they understand me – I love my Scottish friends, but I find it difficult to be friends with people who don’t understand me.

Have you experienced racism at uni?

No I haven’t experienced racism, but I was once in a situation where a girl was attacking Danish people and the country. She told me that I don’t count as a Danish person because I don’t speak the language. I didn’t say anything back to her because I didn’t want to be that person who starts a debate, or instigates things.


Ben Chan, 24, fourth year, Law, British Chinese/Singaporean Chinese

ben-article

What is your experience of race back home?

Broadly speaking I identify as British but would tell people I am of South East-Asian decent. Growing up in both the UK and Singapore and going to international schools, both countries are multicultural. Whilst there is some racism in both countries, some of it may be due to a lack of education. However some racism is due to hate, and it saddens me to see it still happening today.

Did you have any preconceived ideas about race in Edinburgh before coming to uni?

I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of race at Edinburgh university before coming. I love how Edinburgh is so multicultural and how welcoming the city is to people of all ethnicities.

What role does your ethnicity play in your life at uni?

Whilst ethnicity arguably forms some of our identity, I tend not to be too concerned about my ethnicity at university. As a Christian, I see all people as uniquely and beautifully created humans whom we should all love. That being said I am aware of misunderstandings or stereotypes about different cultures and nationalities and races and I think the best way to get rid of these is to befriend people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Have you experienced racism at uni?

I haven’t been the target of racism or seen racism at any point at my time at uni.