Hall nicknames illustrate cultural division

Chinatown. Bangkok.

Two names that are generally associated with internationally-recognized points on a map have now become popular nicknames for Wake Forest University’s Babcock Residence Hall.

Old Gold & Black Archives

Old Gold & Black Archives

Babcock, one of six dormitories located on Wake Forest’s South Campus, is home to 249 first-year students. Over 75 of these students are recognized as international (representing two-thirds of the 122 international students in the Class of 2018). A majority of them are Chinese.

According to Matthew Clifford, Director of Residence Life, the large number of Chinese international students in Babcock exists because they requested in their first-year housing survey to be in this year’s Healthy Living Community, the dormitory with “a substance–free environment.”

But what was once an unintentional pairing of student and residence hall has now become the force behind student isolationism.

“I haven’t run into anybody that isn’t ok with the nicknames. But they [the Chinese students] do keep to themselves,” said Robin Larson, a first-year student from Germany. “I haven’t gone looking for the contact, but I haven’t been avoiding it either.”

“It does indeed present its set of challenges,” Clifford said. “But we are obligated to follow [the students’] request. When we noticed the pairings, we asked the Global Studies office if we could proceed, to which they said yes.”

Most do not even realize the placement is unintentional. Many students from other first-year dormitories recognize Babcock by the Chinese students and their private community.

Kate Middleton, of Johnson Residence Hall, said, “I don’t think it clicked. We just assumed they were all living there because they were international, not because they were substance-free.”

Some claim these students have developed the Babcock nicknames to establish a sense of community and comfortability to aid them in their transition to Wake Forest.

Others feel there is a cultural divide forming between these Chinese students and the remainder of the Babcock community.

“Sometimes there feels like this divide. They [the Chinese students] have created an exclusive community,” said Zack Chan, a first-year Babcock resident from Millington, NJ. “In my opinion, I don’t think they’re ready [to approach us]. They’re not in the mood.”

Jaden Ye, a first-year student from Cleveland, Ohio, then sitting next to Zack, said, “I feel like there’s a cultural difference between me and those international students, even though I’m originally from China. Other international students from Europe and Latin America fit in fine.”

Jiyuan Zhang, a first-year student from Hangzhou, China, reflected on the sense of community it brings to Babcock.

“It really helps us to organize activities, we sometimes order Chinese food together. If I have a problem, I just go knock on someone’s door,” he said.

William Wang, a first-year student from Shanghai, China, agreed with Zhang. “This is really good for us. We have a strong community.”

A Babcock resident advisor, who asked not to be identified because RAs are not permitted to speak publicly with the press, said there was indeed isolationism.

When asked if she believed whether or not the exclusivity was detracting from the students’ first-year immersion, she said, “I think it is detracting. I think all the other resident advisors think that as well. There’s definitely a divide.”

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