A huge part of the reason that I chose to come to the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University is the array of cultures represented. Having grown up in Arvada, a suburb of Denver, and attending a high school nicknamed “Vanilla Valley,” I was ready to experience some diversity. However, I have come to the realization that our school has a great variety of cultures, but we are not actually all that diverse.
On campus, it is clear that students from similar backgrounds clump together. This is particularly prevalent in the case of international students. The language barrier contributes strongly to this situation, but another factor is the difficulty of initially branching out.
It seems that many Minnesotan students at CSB/SJU find it easier to spend their time with people they knew from high school. Out-of-state students do not have that same luxury, but since they, for the most part, speak English fluently, they have more tools to branch out than many international students. The administration is working on the ESL program for that very reason, but we have an opportunity, as students, to reach out and catalyze cultural integration. Since we are hosting these international students, we need to make an effort, even though it is not necessarily our first instinct to venture past our comfort zones.
If out-of-state and local students would go out of their way to make friends with an international student and/or attend a couple meetings for one of the cultural clubs or organizations on campus, CSB/SJU could be a more cohesive and diverse community. Making friends with international students can help with opening up cultural cliques. Also, the language barrier could come down much faster if students who are still struggling with English can practice in a social environment. Along those lines, there are six main cultural clubs and organizations on campus including Exploring Latin American Cultures, the Vietnamese Student Association, Hmong Americans Involving Students, the Asia Club, China Cross Cultural Communication Club and the Black Student’s Association. Attending club meetings could contribute to a deeper understanding of one another’s cultures. If no one is willing to bridge the gap, no one will reap the benefits of a diverse campus community.
If not for the sake of community, we should be thinking ahead to our futures for motivation to culturally integrate. In terms of experience, we will be much more prepared for any job or career if we have been exposed to diversity. Since so much of business involves intercultural interaction, this school provides incredible opportunity to those willing to take it.
We live on a campus full of cultural variety, but we need to take steps toward transforming it into a true diversity.