Multiculturalism fosters diverse interactions, understanding in residence halls

By Shuyuan Tang

The multicultural environment in the residence halls offers opportunities for students to learn about other cultures. Blas Nache, an American student and a resident in Sheldon Hall, was thrilled to learn Japanese writing from her friend.

“The writing makes totally no sense to me, but I was showed how just a few different lines can create a word of completely different meaning, which is very cool,” Nache said.

She said multiculturalism in the residence hall allows her to see similarities and differences between ways of life.

As different cultures maintain different beliefs and values,IL the convergence of different perspectives may induce changes in an individual’s mindset.

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Phil Siganga, a bicultural student with a Kenyan and Chinese background who was born and raised in the U.S., notices some of these changes in himself. He said he found himself “more eager to explore the world, to visit the places (students) are from to experience what they are like.”

He attributes this change to the experience of living on the same floor as students from Venezuela, Japan, China and other countries.

“Thanks to the experience of living with people from different cultures, I want to help to make society more even in a way (that) we can experience all cultures, rather than just focusing on one central culture,” he said.

Exchange students and international students also experience immersion in a new cultural setting when they come to campus.

Raquel Casali, an exchange student from Brazil, had to adjust to the different cultural etiquette of her new temporary home of Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall.

There have been a few moments where cultural differences created interesting situations, such as when one of Casali’s friends was taken aback when Casali offered to kiss and hug her the first time they were saying goodbye to each other.

But as a result of her new multicultural atmosphere, Casali has become friends with people from Mexico, Ecuador, Italy, Denmark, Spain and China.

She has enjoyed her time here so much that she is trying to extend her stay for one more semester.

“The strong sense of inclusiveness within the multicultural setting makes me want to explore more about here,” she said. “And I am really glad that I don’t have to spend four hours every day in traffic as I did in Brazil.”

Virupaksh Agrawal is an international student from India who spent most of his childhood in east Africa, and has lived in different cultural environments prior to his enrollment at the University.

Agrawal made a point early on to take advantage of the diversity on campus.

“I decided to commit myself to a life of more than just socializing with people from the same ethnic group as me,” he said. “I effectively expanded my social circle beyond that level to make connections with people who share different cultural backgrounds.”

He said he is extremely grateful he made this commitment.

“It set the foundation of my entire college career and made me start to appreciate and understand the fact that people can differ on the basis of experiences they have lived through in terms of thoughts and values,” he said. “Which is not something that can be debated in a right-versus-wrong setting, especially when the differences fall into the realm of social identity.”

His appreciation for multiculturalism drove Agrawal to pursue a paraprofessional career as a multicultural advocate at Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls. This position falls under University Housing and is dedicated to addressing social justice issues, motivating cross-cultural interaction and establishing respect for all cultural differences and social identities.

Agrawal hopes to encourage his 500 residents to step out of their comfort zones so they can explore new things and meet new people.

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