Reflections on the Diversity Forum
When I meet my friends and end up discussing diversity, globalisation, politics etc. it always gets messy. It gets emotional. We all have different views, different lived experiences and the fact that we share different cultural backgrounds makes it all even more interesting.
We also realise that we have many things in common. We seek justice, respect, love, we want our voices to be heard. I was told that a problem we, international students, have is that we expect other people to understand us but we do not share enough.
We forget that not everyone will know where we come from, how our cultures and practices differ and then we get stuck. We feel secluded, different from everyone else and we feel alone. I claim that most people do not understand me when in fact I have not taken the time to share enough time, stories, even customs with some of my friends.
Given the craziness that is going on around the world I feel it is important, now more than ever, that we open up and speak. I (we) am afraid to be vulnerable, because coming this far from home and stepping into an unknown land was already terrifying enough. Everywhere I go it feels like I am planting new seeds, starting from zero.
On the last week of January the annual Provost’s Diversity Forum took place at UVic. I had the honour to attend and also be a panelist for one of the sessions together with other amazing strong women.
“The UVic’ Provost’s Diversity Research Forum has been promoting critical conversations about diversity and social justice topics and community-engaged university scholarship.”
One question in specific, though simple, made me really consider and reflect on my reasons for being in Canada. “Do you feel like you have enough representation?” referring to our different cultures, the available resources and events on campus.
My answer was no, I mean… rarely I feel like I am in an environment that reminds me of my old home or that encompasses our cultural diversity.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Maya Angelou explained it all in one sentence. Truth is, I (we) did not come to Canada to feel comfortable, I (we) was not expecting to be the same person I was when I left home. This meant throwing myself into the new culture, the new food, the music and the lifestyle. This also meant saying goodbye to our families, our air, everything that we could relate to.
I am grateful for this “extremely different” environment, though. How else could I have grown, not only academically but as a human being? How else could I have learned about the immense cultural diversity beyond my small island? How else could I have learned that people with different skin colors love the same way. That love is truly universal.
We have grown and we all have an amazing story to share. Now I am speaking for all students, both international and local. I truly hope and wish that we learn from all of the situations going around the world. That we gain strength from watching our brothers and sisters standing up for what is right. That we remember to honor what is truly important. That we learn how to be more compassionate, caring and loving human beings.