Sept. 11 affects students' lives in more ways than one

by Sarah Betts | 6/9/02 5:00am

After four years in the relative utopia that is Dartmouth, Commencement marks a time when students must become full citizens of a wider world than Hanover. After a year that saw planes crash into the World Trade Center, American forces on the ground in Afghanistan and the escalation of violence in the Middle East, that wider world seems a vastly different place for graduating seniors.

The events of Sept. 11 have forced this year's graduates to reevaluate future goals and consider world politics and safety issues in a way that didn't seem necessary before the attacks. Even day-to-day life is more complicated for students whose plans take them to areas plagued with the threat of terrorism.

Travel in the Middle East is now much more dangerous for Americans -- an issue that students with plans to work or study in that part of the world must now consider more seriously.

The danger doesn't deter everyone, though. Michael Sevi '02 had long planned to study Hebrew in Israel after his graduation from Dartmouth, and the events of September didn't change his mind.

The terrorist attacks demonstrated the importance of relief efforts and the value of human life, and also drew attention to aspects of American foreign policy that need to change.

"Rather than try and become more insular, we should be more cognizant of our role in the world," Ahern said. "We should reach out and try to be humble."

Because the terrorists were Muslim extremists, the attacks have created tension for Muslim Americans and anyone of Middle Eastern ethnicity, especially as security measures make use of racial profiling and attitudes become more insular. Raj Chowdhury '02 said that the attacks heightened his awareness of his identity as a Muslim and an American -- two components he realized might seem mutually exclusive to some.

"I am going to live in Spain, and it made me think about how they might perceive me there," Chowdhury said. "'He is American and Muslim?' they might say. They will see them as different things."

Though he said it is important now that people "engage in a common dialogue," Chowdhury isn't concerned that he will be discriminated against in America, and isn't afraid that fear will drive some people to be prejudiced against those of his background.

"I would expect that people are more curious now, but I don't feel like I will be viewed negatively," he said.

The tolerance exhibited by most Americans was more than Indian student Vivek Menon '02 expected. When he flew back to the United States on Sept. 18, Menon said, he did not endure undue suspicion.

"I was surprised by how understanding people are," Menon said, though he allowed that some might associate terrorism with people of his appearance.

Menon plans to get a job in America after graduation, but recent events have made him consider the possibility of returning to India, especially in the wake of rising tension between India and Pakistan.

"People feel patriotic about the recent events, and it has made me feel more in touch with India," Menon said. "I would like to help out my family there."

Leyla Kamalick '02, who is half Arab, said that after Sept. 11 she became more aware of her ethnic identity. Kamalick has since worked to create Shamis, a "space for Arab students at Dartmouth." In the process, her Arab identity has become important to her.

"[Working on Arab-American issues] has become a part of my life, and I want to keep spending time doing that," she said.