I can’t believe it’s almost becoming time for me to graduate! I hardly even feel like a college student right now, so I am in serious wonder of how I will feel when I finally leave. One of the things I will miss about college is the ability to socialize and quickly make friends with people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’m not saying you won’t meet people of diverse upbringings after college, but it will not be as new and fresh an environment to make friends as in college, since later in life people start worrying about their work, how to start families, and other personal commitments. In college, basically everyone is trying to figure out where they are going, and a huge part of that journey entails meeting new people.
I myself have gotten to appreciate other cultures over the years, and below I list two of the ways I have explored backgrounds different from, but also including, my own.
One of my endeavors is attending cultural events at Marathi Vishwa Professional Association with my family during the fall season. Here, I travel with my parents on a weekend to any local NJ high school where the event is sponsored and get to socialize with family friends and make new ones, almost entirely in my first language, Marathi. There is great food (always the best part), dance performances, theatrical skits, and a great chance for me to stay connected to my Indian heritage. Best of all, it’s a great break from the academically stressful environment of the weekdays. Even if I have an exam to study for later in the day, I at least find it relaxing that I got to go to one of these events. Of course, the event is not only exclusive to people who speak Marathi, so it’s also nice to see people from all over India dressing up in traditional Marathi attire and connecting with their culture.
Another way is that I spent two of my summers interning at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in which I described my experience volunteering in the waiting room of the pediatric clinics, almost entirely in Spanish. I had described my experience in a previous post titled “The NYPD – New York Presbyterian Department“, and I had the privilege of doing it again this past summer, this time as a paid intern! I even got academic credit for it at the Rutgers Internship and Co-op Program! I am glad to know that the initiative to address patients’ social determinants of health (non-biological factors such as occupation, education, and housing) is gaining ground at NYP, and I do hope it grows out to other healthcare institutions as well. The best part about this experience was that it introduced me firsthand to the Dominican culture in the Washington Heights region of New York City, and it thrilled me knowing I was part of an initiative to help the children and their families adjust to their living situations with support from local government-funded and private community resources. The sooner the problems are addressed, the better the lives of the family improves and the less of a chance they have of developing unhealthy eating habits or building up risk factors for chronic disorders. Speaking Spanish to these patients really made me feel like part of their lives and able to communicate what they may have been anxious or had not known about.
Those were two of the experiences I had that I considered as being the most diverse. One was for clinical experience, and the other was for pure family enjoyment. I am sure I have many more that I will talk about in my future posts, and I am sure many of my peers also have something to share regarding their diverse experiences. Whether you realize it or not, each one of us really does have an interesting experience that is worth writing or talking about. Engaging in free discussion was one of the ways I was able to build relationships in college and connect with other cultures. At the end of the day, nothing makes me feel more satisfied than walking away from a conversation where I learned something new about the person, the culture, or myself.