I love learning and celebrating diversity and cultures. I grew up in five different countries and overall have lived in nine different cities in my life – each representing different cultures, seasons, and lifestyles. I enjoy sharing my story and background to people who want to listen but this is also what makes me overly complicated and unable to answer the question “where are you from?”. There is no one true answer for me. My go-to answer is India because of the color of my skin, but this barely scrapes the surface of where I am from. I am sure there are so many people like me that have their own unique stories about identity. Whether you moved a lot in the same country, were based in one city, or moved a lot globally, I have always made it a priority of mine to celebrate these differences through targeted events during my time at University Housing. Learning about each other is the key to building a strong community and you can do just that by keeping these three points in mind.
Five years ago I hosted an event called “Bring back a little home”. It was one of the more memorable events I’ve ever created. The premise was a potluck where residents and staff signed up to cook a meal they held close to their heart and always reminded them of home. Others could attend for the food and stories. Thankfully we had the luxury to sponsor all the ingredients and supplies for anyone who wanted to cook a meal.
FOOD AND FRIENDS! What more do you need for a successful event? We went around the room sharing what we brought and why it was important to us. It was a safe space where people could share their stories, learn about each other, and have a home-cooked meal. This event was perfect for our residence hall since it was all first-year students with many international students as well. This is just one example of how to celebrate diversity. Depending on your demographic and budget, variations can be done or it can be centered around a different activity such as what is one item you brought to college from your past that you hold close to you.
Educate on different cultures
Diwali nights and Chinese New Year celebrations were a constant during my time at University Housing. These two examples of large festivals from India and China can be so much fun to celebrate with a community that was always eager to learn new things and eat new food. Each festival has its own traditions, special foods, clothes, etc. that add so much more depth to learning about other cultures if you can incorporate them into the event. If you don’t know much about these cultures, do not attempt to plan it yourself or educate others on a culture you do not know! Recruit the right people to help you. Other examples may be Thanksgiving potluck (if people are still around during the holidays), Halloween parties, etc. Remember that for many international students, this may be the first time they are in the US, so hosting events on American holidays and traditions can also be a fun and educational experience for them.
Being mindful and inclusive to all groups
And lastly, make sure you publicize your events as being open to everyone! What I mean by this is do not plan a Diwali event for just the brown folks. In fact, planning by targeting events for people outside the said community can be a great way to keep you in check to make sure all the activities, instructions, etc, are inclusive to all groups. Be inclusive, educational, and most importantly have fun!