The Global Community’s Strength in our Diversity

How often do we hear about the love, fear, joy, discomfort and experiences of people who look or act differently than us? What about talks around diversity, inclusion, and racism? How do these things come together to shape our experiences in what we know today as “Canada?”

The openness and diverse backgrounds that I found on campus were one of the main reasons I fell in love with UVic – I met students from all around the world. This exposure, together with the experience of moving to a new country, shaped my beliefs and developed a bigger sense of awareness of other cultures – our strengths and our similarities.

I believe the following might be a shared experience: we all love the food, the festivals, the music until we reach the invisible wall. This wall might be the unexplained cultural differences, the pre-set ideas (stereotypes) or even the language barrier. These are some of the difficulties many newcomers face when moving to a new country, when navigating a new culture.

As students, we are able to access resources from UVic and from the amazing community members on campus. For example, the interfaith chapel, conversation cafés or International Student Services(ISS) to name a few.

Through ISS, I was welcomed with open arms and found a home with the UVic Global Community where I connected with individuals from all around the world and was able to participate in community events, training, opportunities to share my stories, conferences and more.

The Global Community Student Advisory Council is comprised of student leaders who are committed to supporting the success of UVic’s international community through peer connections, community engagement and inclusion. The Council meets regularly to share ideas, experiences, and opinions that contribute to the Global Community initiative and the advancement of the University of Victoria’s strategic directions for fostering a truly global campus

This initiative led to our participation in the Inclusion Project, a strategic dialogue on diversity, equity & inclusiveness. This past March 30th, the Inclusion Project engaged stakeholders in critical conversations about the issues of diversity, equity and inclusiveness across civil society, public and private sectors. Most importantly, it brought different voices together including international students to share co-create solutions to challenges faced across Canada.

Opening of the Inclusion Project with Ruth Mojeed, founder. Photo credit: Mohit Verma

The day was full of energy, deep stories and some difficult ones. It is in these types of events that we truly realize the magnitude of our actions, the importance of sharing our diverse perspectives and listening to understand.

“The Inclusion Project gave me the opportunity to connect with a broader community around Victoria who cared about our challenges, our skills and everything we bring. We are not only newcomers, visibly we are brothers, sisters, mothers, but we are also skilled professionals, leaders, strong and resilient.” – Yamila, Global Community Student Advisory Council Member

Yamila Franco and Jamison Escobar with a map from the UVic Community Mapping Collaboration

“My major takeaway was: inclusion and diversity mean different things to different people. I enjoyed the presentations, stories, and opinions from the speakers. More importantly, I feel a sense of unity from everyone in the room. The project was more than a face-to-face conversation but a campaign that we fight side-by-side. The values of the Inclusion Project align with the values of UVic Global Community, and we all strive to make the world a better place. While we still have a long way to go, we have allies, and the little changes we make will accumulate to greater benefits.” – David, Global Community Student Advisory Council Member

Group discussions, topic exploration and reflection. Photo credit: Mohit Verma

David, UVic Global Community Student Advisory Council. Photo Credit: John-Evan Snow of FotoVie for Here Magazine

“The Inclusion Project brought supportive and positive vibes to my life in Victoria, the same vibes I normally feel inside of the Global Community. However, it was more fascinating and exciting, since the vibes were from so greatly diverse groups of people, who gathered for the shared purposes, raising a sense of diversity in our local community and standing side by side for so-called minority groups of people. In a personal level, it was a meaningful time to think of my cultural identity and feel valued and proud of myself just as I am. Moreover, as one panel mentioned, bringing cultural diversity should be a process of hybridization, rather assimilation. I think we all should be agents in this process, no matter what personal and cultural backgrounds we have.” – Minjeong, Global Community Student Advisory Council Member

Members of the UVic Global Community

Having the space to share and learn is important. It was beautiful to have members of our UVic Global Community, high school students and various community members present and engaging with stakeholders, leaders, policymakers, etc. We are stronger when we stand together – this way was a reminder of our strength in our diversity and how we are working together to bring more inclusion and equity to this world.

Some of the organizers, coordinators and collaborators of the Inclusion Project. Photo Credit: John-Evan Snow of FotoVie for Here Magazine

Written by Minjeong, David and Yamila

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