Like any other senior on the brink of graduation, the past couple of months have been filled with reflection and appreciation.
As I prepare to take the last final exam of my college career, it's impossible not to experience that whirlwind of emotions one can only describe as "bittersweet."
I've been lucky enough to receive a post-secondary education, an education that has now created opportunities to start my “dream job,” and have met so many people who have inspired me in ways they probably don't even realize.
It's that last piece I believe will be the most important experience university has provided me with.
Yes, university allowed me to receive a higher education, but it also allowed me to develop an open mind, and, quite frankly, this skill of diversity is what I think will be more beneficial in the long run.
I grew up in a small suburban town and predictability was the epitome of my childhood. I was raised to marry someone within my culture, nationality and religion. Of course, I was then supposed to go on to breed more disciples (or "victims" as I refer to them) of this suburban plague.
Everyone was the same, so it was inevitable that we all grew up living in this fictitious bubble of small town safety and normality.
It wasn't until university that I met people who were of different religions, nationalities and sexual orientations. And that's the most important thing I learned in college: culture. That it's diverse and that's its beauty.
I won't take walking through the student center and passing a new group of students standing up for something they believe in for granted. They subtly educated us on the world outside our classroom walls.
To these students who were constantly standing up for their beliefs and what they were passionate about, thank you. I'm sure every school has its own version of this social justice demonstration, and I feel as though these students are the school's beating heart.
Thank you for not letting us, the college student body, turn a blind eye and ignore what's happening in the world simply because we've been privileged enough to be engulfed by our own stresses of midterms and internship recruitment.
University provided me with diversity. I was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic school my whole life. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you a single thing about Judaism until I met a Jewish girl living in my residence in my first year.
I can't even put into words what I have learned about other religions just from interacting with my friends and classmates; to me, that knowledge is greater than any accounting exam I took.
I have an appreciation for their religions and understand their "normal" is different from mine. And as someone who prides herself on being culturally intelligent, I would hate to offend someone because of my cultural ignorance. Thanks to university, that ignorance has dissolved.
I understand that these lessons on culture are very dependent on the individual.
There are definitely students who have carried their high school norms into university, staying with the same friend group and not reaching out and meeting new people. Some post-secondary institutions are also just not as diverse; maybe your school was specific to a certain religion, or maybe the demographic that was attracted by that school's recruitment efforts was narrow in scope.
Regardless of the situation, I believe that in today's society, cultural intelligence is the new normal. It's becoming the expectation.
Technology has eliminated the "but I didn't know" excuse. Learning about what's going on in the world, politically and/or socially, is easier than it has ever been before. So if cultural intelligence is something your college degree wasn't able to, or hasn't provided to you, I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart.
Those diverse relationships were some of the more powerful ones I made in university. But to be even more frank: Not graduating with the sense of diversity is basically like graduating one credit shorter than the rest of the world.
Originally written by Alex Duffield on Unwritten.