On Belonging and Isolation…

Yesterday, as I was entering data collected in an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classroom in western Massachusetts, I found myself deeply moved by the answers shared on the questionnaires.

When asked, “WHEN DO YOU FEEL INVISIBLE?” 5 out of the 8 respondents wrote answers that reflect feelings of isolation:

  • I FEEL INVISIBLE WHEN NOBODY TALKS TO ME.
  • I FEEL INVISIBLE WHEN NOBODY PAYS ATTENTION TO ME.
  • WHEN I CAN’T COMMUNICATE TO OTHERS BECAUSE OF THE LANGUAGE.
  • WHEN ANYONE TALKS TO ME.
  • I FEEL INVISIBLE WHEN I CAN’T SPEAK OR COMMUNICATE BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SAY SOMETHING IN ENGLISH.

Not only are foreign students often strangers in a strange land, struggling with language barriers, many of them face subtle – or even overt – prejudice and racism, leaving innocent, good-hearted souls feeling ostracized and alone — not an easy space to tolerate, especially when one is so far from family, friends, and familiar territory.

I remember having some of these struggles as a foreign student and traveler abroad, though being white, I rarely ran into racism directed towards me. But overcoming language barriers and trying to establish normal social connections is extremely difficult in a foreign land. The loneliness can be debilitating. My heart aches for people who are struggling with isolation. We humans naturally have a deep longing to belong.

When have you felt isolated or alone?
Did you also feel invisible?

Please share your comments below.

 

 

 

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