Selective Amnesia: The International Student's Nightmare

It happened more than once.  In fact, it happened so often that I knew I was not the one imagining things.  I would sit down and have a conversation with an American student for any range of time.  Sometimes, it was hours, sometimes it was just a few minutes.  Either way, I expected the person to recognize me and respond to my greeting or say hello the next day.  Boy, was I wrong!

What usually happened after these conversations was that the American student would see me in public and completely ignore me.  Mind you, I did not experience this with other international students.  And I also did not experience this with other black (African-American) students.  Oh no.  Black students always remembered me.  This happened often, however, with white American students.

The term 'selective amnesia' was coined by my sister, who had the same experience.  That term seemed apt because these students clearly remembered the faces and names of their frat brothers and sorority sisters, but somehow did not recognize international (in my case, African) students they had met just recently.  Thankfully, my sister and I were in the same school and were room-mates, so we got to bounce ideas off each other to make sure we were not just being paranoid. Believe me, it helped.

One day, during a literature class, we discovered that not only did other African students share similar experiences, but in fact, some American students did as well.

So, maybe it is not purely an international student's problem.  However, I would still insist that they are disproportionately affected.  In my experience, and from the people I interacted with and spoke with, that was the case.

I still have no idea why this selective amnesia occurs, but I would certainly like to know.

Have you experienced this or have you heard of other international students who experienced this? How did you deal with it? Kindly share.

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I totally understand what you mean.. I schooled in the UK and it used to happen to me with White students but then I realised that to many of them we all look alike and they actually do not remember our faces very well..

I know it's weird but on one or two occasions I have also had 'amnesia' after just speaking to a white student the day or week before..

Some may actually be doing it on purpose but I know that some genuinely do not recollect the face.. xx

1 + The One

I read this post and I was like Yes... YES... YES!!! They never ever ever remember you the next day and then I read down and realized oops, I'm also guilty of the same thing. I remember earlier on, I thought all white people looked alike so I could never distinguish them... probably they too thought I had selective amnesia... oops

For me, it was always the African-Americans that didn't seem to remember while the white Americans were always hunting me to find out my name and more about where I came from.



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