At the start of his freshman year, Trevor Turmel (’23) decided to create a new identity. He stepped into class on the first day of school with a heavy Australian accent. For two years, Turmel put up the façade of a foreigner before all of his SNHU peers.
The purpose of his social experiment was to create inclusivity and get to know people. Turmel did it not to elicit attention, but to observe how people act when around someone of different qualities.
“I noticed that not a lot of people would communicate with me, or thought I was interesting…I thought, ‘What if I changed the way I talk?'” Turmel said. “For the past two years, I’ve been putting on different accents from around the world….A lot more people are actually communicating with me more just because of the way I talk.”
Turmel envisioned college to be a place of interaction, but it wasn’t as he thought it would be. “I work in a hotel, so I work with people that are from different countries, from all over the world,” said Turmel. “Immediately, if they hand me a passport from a different country or speak a different language, I always ask them, ‘Where are you from?’ or, ‘What language are you speaking?’”
At first glance, Turmel is a normal college student studying for classes and doing homework. What his peers didn’t know was that he was conducting research on how to be Australian and how to capture the role he wished to portray.
“I actually did a lot of research on not only the accent itself, but also the culture of Australia….I looked up how a childhood in Australia is different from a childhood in the US,” said Turmel.
Turmel decided to call it quits after two years of living two different lives. Living two lives took a mental and emotional toll on him.
“For a while I was actually considering going to a psychologist about this situation…I knew if I continued doing this, I was going to develop my own form of imposter syndrome,” said Turmel. “I realized that if I didn’t have the accent, I don’t think my self esteem or my outgoing nature would have been as strong.”
Imposter syndrome can be described as a lack of confidence to play the role of yourself. “I felt like I didn’t have…good self-esteem…because I didn’t think I was interesting enough. I didn’t think people would find me interesting,” said Turmel.
Now that he’s finally coming clean after two years of using an accent, Turmel had some closing words for how he wants people to view this illusion.
“I know people will feel indifferent about it,” said Turmel. “I know there are some people who live on campus who are from these countries that I’ve been portraying, but I want them to know I wasn’t trying to offend them…I can’t change how people think about it…I’ve come to terms with that.”
Turmel knew his plan wouldn’t always work, but he wants people to know this was merely an experiment that he could have gone without doing.
“I want people to understand that even though you might not think that you’re interesting…there are going to be those people that go out of their way to make sure that you’re included,” said Turmel. “Embrace yourself, and let people know who you really are.”