It is no secret that colleges in the United States like to be diverse. Some might say that this has even become a marketable asset, with “diversity” being advertised as most universities’ top quality on countless brochures, websites, and college tours. Yet many times it feels like we get too caught up in being diverse that we forget why we do it. After all, why is it so important for us to be surrounded by others from different races, religions, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds? Why do we benefit so much from it?
To answer this question I must refer to personal experience. I grew up in Brazil and attended an “international school”, meaning that our classes were taught in English and most of the students in the schools were children from different parts of the world whose parents had been transferred to work in Brazil. In the ten years I spent there, I had friends from the United States, Korea, Norway, Colombia, Japan, Germany, and many more nations. Essentially, I grew up in the most diverse community I could ever be in, and I am glad I did so. Being around different people fostered in me a sense of appreciation for our differences. At one point, I began thoroughly enjoying meeting people different from me. I like to believe this led to me becoming someone more accepting, caring, and wise — for it was only by looking at the world from other perspectives that I began shaping my own.
Consequently, I believe having a diverse college environment is crucial because it adds immensely to the transformative experience that college already is. By meeting people from around the world, understanding the perspective of people from another race, or interacting with others from distinct social backgrounds, we become more aware of how big the world is and that our views are not ones that are valid, or perhaps are not even valid at all. We are thus exposed to concepts and situations we might not have met otherwise, creating meaningful bonds with people whom we could not have possibly met anywhere else. Diversity not only makes college a more accepting and welcoming place to all — ensuring that people from all different backgrounds get a fair shot at a good education — but it also makes us more understanding and appreciative of all the differences and peculiarities we each possess, things that both distinguish and unite us, all at the same time.