Diversity is essential to today’s college experience

by Tom Tran, Contributor

 College is a time for exploration. During this period, many college students are beginning their journey in self-awareness. Students are exploring career choices, majors, clubs and organizations, sexuality and cultural identity. These forms of exploration allow students to get a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. Being in a diverse environment is essential to this process.

Our world is diverse. It is a melting pot of people from many different walks of life. Possessing differentiating points of view provides us with a better understanding of where our beliefs come from and helps us to identify what we actually believe in. Being open to the idea of cultural diversity provides the opportunity to broaden a person’s perspective. Learning about other people’s insights and opinions, cultural customs and lifestyle choices will give you a deeper grasp into your own.

Every person has their own set of challenges to overcome during their journey. Some people are predisposed to be less equipped with resources or cultural capital due to circumstances beyond their control. 

For instance, a student raised in an English-speaking household can potentially gain a stronger grasp of the language compared to a student with English as their secondary language. Although it may be more advantageous to have a better grasp of the language in your native country, it is also advantageous to have a second language at your disposal. Speaking multiple languages allows you to connect with more people and provide different outlooks on the world.

Both native-English speakers and bilingual speakers have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. By being mindful of your own strengths, you gain perspective into what makes you unique. Having cultural capital, especially regarding traditions and language, passed down from their parents gives students a slight edge.

 College is a time when you are able to cultivate your communication skills. An opportunity to interact with people of various cultures and nationalities and learn about their ways of life. During these interactions you will discuss one another’s cultures. You may learn about their traditions, delicious multicultural foods and notice parallels between cultures. With this comes the realization that we are all different, but the same.  

Understanding differing backgrounds enables us to be more aware of the privileges we are awarded and of our shortcomings. Having greater self-awareness leads to stronger decision making – especially when deciding which career path to pursue. Career choices are best made when one’s strengths and weaknesses have been recognized completely. You will likely want a job that highlights your skill sets – a position where your strengths outshine your weaknesses. The most rewarding work is found when you understand yourself as a whole and that you are not perfect. Knowing what you bring to the table will liken your chances of fulfillment in your career.

Our world is progressively moving towards globalization and having a diverse student population on your college campus will prepare you for the diversity of the workplace today. In today’s workforce, your employer, customers and co-workers will likely be from different backgrounds. The more exposure you have to other cultures, the more you will learn through social interactions. Collaborative efforts lead to a future of more connectedness and an enriching experience for all. 

If we never bother to expand our efforts for a more inclusive workplace, our society can not continue to make considerable strides forward. A new era is upon us and cultural inclusiveness is the catalyst to not only improving the culture of workplaces, but within our own neighborhoods and communities.

Tom Tran is a senior studying interdisciplinary studies. Follow him on Twitter @tomtrvn.