By Sinet Kroch ’22, Common Ground Participant ’18,
Hi, I am Sinet, the only first year student from Cambodia.
“Oh, Common Ground? It’s intensive!” “It’s for “you”!” These were some of the responses I heard while inquiring about Common Ground. These responses freaked me out a bit as I was looking for a somewhat relaxing time for my first break at Bucknell. I still chose to apply to Common Ground because of the name itself, COMMON Ground! My first thought was it is a place for everyone, who have something in COMMON; it doesn’t matter what that something is. Common Ground is for everyone, not just me–an international student, a woman of color, and a minority on campus.
I was excited to meet other participants and to discuss different topics including sex, gender, ability status, religion, race, and ethnicity and just to be off campus. I packed my bag, pillow, and blanket three days before the actual event; that’s how thrilled I was. I even introduced myself to others, “I am glad that I can be part of Common Ground. I appreciate my difference and I really want to help other to embrace their differences as well. I am unique because I am different from others. I don’t fit the ideal beauty type, but I am a beautiful! A proud Cambodian! One of the women of color on campus”.
Common Ground was a place for me to share my stories- in hope that it inspires other, a place for me to define myself, and to help me step out of my comfort zone. I clearly remember the activity “Privilege Walk”. Statements related to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability status, and gender were read out loud, and participants either moved forward or backward based on how these statements impacted their lives. I was way behind, indicating that I am underprivileged. What I really liked about this activity is the fact that we, the participants, got to internalize what it meant to be behind or in front of other people. The hidden message is that some people do not know they have privilege and it makes them better off, while others battled hardships in life just to get what regular people deserve to have: getting access to education, having a loving family, or just having enough food to survive the day.
I have a hard time trusting people; however Common Ground provided a safe space for me where I ended up sharing my personal story of growing up with domestic violence and navigating through life as a scholarship student since a young age. It was not easy, but the support that I received from the directors, facilitators, and participants gave me the courage to break out of my fears. I found myself crying for most of the time during Common Ground. I cried because I was touched by the stories of my peers. I cried because I care. I cried because I know I have to do something about it. It is unfair for anyone to be mistreated because of skin color, race, and ethnicity.
After the retreat, I have been an active voice on campus by continuing to talk about what I learned from Common Ground, and about topics that my country views as a taboo. I participated in “Take Back the Night” event and was even more inspired by the stories of the survivors.
I would sincerely like to thank Common Ground for a profound experience, and a lifelong memory that will always have a place in my heart. It has given me the tools to represent voices of other women that are not heard. Now I feel confident in fighting for the right.