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How microaggressions can affect students and their mental health

Kushal Bhandari is no stranger to experiences involving microaggressions. In his SEAT at the Table session titled, “Dismantling the Dynamics of Racial Microaggressions”, he discussed how these small, sometimes unintentional, comments can really affect someone and their everyday life.

Bhandari is an international student from Nepal who had to overcome many difficulties to even get to Springfield College, as he was a first-year student during COVID when there were many restrictions on travel. On top of the hard journey he had to endure to even make it to campus, the injustices against him just because he looked different added to the stress that he was dealing with.

One of the main focuses of the presentation was that it is easy to overlook people because of their differences, but that is what makes everyone so unique.

“After I came to America, the microaggressions were so overpowering that I had to just sit in my room because it took a big toll on my mental health,” Bhandari said. “I tried to make friends with people but they just wanted to avoid me and the awkwardness.”

Microaggressions are both intentional and unintentional insults targeted at marginalized groups, meaning that sometimes people may say things that are considered a microaggression without even knowing it. Some common examples are, “Your English is so good,” or, “But where are you really from?” These types of comments perpetuate stereotypes and are hurtful to those who are experiencing the injustice.

Bhandari told the audience how the microaggressions and bullying he has experienced have hindered his opportunities at Springfield College. He didn’t want to join any groups or clubs, and he even stopped going to his P.E. classes to avoid his confusion over new games that he doesn’t know.

“I have to just jump in and play different things, different games and do all the training. I just get lost and there’s no one to train me. If I make mistakes, people start laughing at me and it just lowers my confidence. I don’t want to go to classes because of this,” Bhandari said.

Bhandari urged everyone to be more aware about what they say and how they act around people who may not be like them. He also went on to give examples of different ways to ask questions or make comments so that they do not come off in an aggressive manner.

Arguably the most important point Bhandari made: educate yourself. It is so easy to go through life with strictly the knowledge you built from your home life and upbringing. However, as college students approach the real world, it is essential to learn how to interact and communicate with different people. Look for opportunities to build relationships, use the privilege you may have to speak up, be kind and do your own research to expand upon the system of oppression and racial prejudice.
Bhandari’s presentation shined a light on the importance of awareness of microaggressions and speaking up against them. It just takes a matter of small changes to make the world better for everyone, and like Bhandari said, kindness can go a long way.

“Kindness is really zero dollars, it costs nothing, but it is worth beyond any comparison,” Bhandari said. “Just remember that your kindness could mean so much, it could elevate someone’s confidence.”

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