Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Importance of Multiculturalism in my Education

by Sonia Hossain
Public Relations Intern at The Y
Senior in Media Studies

Coming from the public school side of education in Chicago, I have always been used to being surrounded by peers of different colors, backgrounds, religious affiliations, and cultures going back from elementary school to high school. I believe that this was seen to me as an opportunity and benefit as a young student because not only was I able to learn about special cultures all over the world, but it also taught me the importance of diversity and how it allowed me to open my mind to ideas, opinions, and lifestyles that differed from mine. 

Most importantly, diversity in my classrooms taught me that no matter how different in culture or backgrounds we were from each other, in the end of the day, we were all alike, equal, and here for the same purpose, to learn and develop new skills that would help us not only academically, but also to shine as a leader in our own communities.

As a graduating senior this semester, I have had time to reflect upon my past semesters of my undergraduate career as a student of color in my classrooms in college. Coming to the University of IL – Urbana, Champaign, I was surrounded by peers that were from all over the world along in my classes with me. I had the benefit to not only hear opinions from one specific area of the United States, but also from different cities and countries as well. 

Foreign exchange and international students in my classroom not only brought new perspectives and ideas from their unique backgrounds, but they also brought smiles and enthusiasm to share their cultures from back home with students in America. I remember going to my first Bhangra Night party at the union during freshman year and seeing international students dress up in their glossy attire along with their American friends who were excited to experience new festivities and music. International students are always passionate to share their parts of their own identity and culture with American students. In a way, that led me to new cross-cultural experiences without having to travel abroad or leave the classroom!

To learn more about different cultures across campus, U of I also has cultural houses that are home to a variety of different programs, food, festivities, events, and learning series that allowed me to experience multiculturalism through participation. Whether it be Yoga Club at the Asian American Cultural Center or singing Spanish Christmas Carols with La Casa Cultural Latina, these were a few of the many new events that furthered my understanding of different cultures by my own peers who had set up and educated through these workshops.

As an intern at the University YMCA, there are also many programs and intercultural events that the organization offers to educate community members and students about the importance of internationalism and culture and why it should be celebrated. The University YMCA sponsors organizations such as Interfaith In Action, La Colectiva, Philippine Student Association, Friday Forum, and many others that help students learn not only about different cultures, but also helps them find ways to get involved on their campus and community to promote positive change and help to those who need it!

Just some of the multicultural events coming up at the Y:
  • Free Art @ the Y Opening Featuring Ramiro Rodríguez and Los Condenados Huastecos - Friday, March 2nd from 6-9pm
  • 29th Annual International Dinner and Performance on March 11th - Sign up to cook now!
  • Free Friday Forum Lectures each Friday at Noon about Global Development
  • Cosmo Coffee hours on Thursday nights, to be announced soon.
  • Global Lens International Film Series will resume in Fall 2012