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Connecting with diversity in every corner of MSU

September 2, 2014
<p>Henry Pan</p>

Henry Pan

Photo by Justin Wan | The State News

As you probably experienced, a Spartan kickoff is enough to sprout enthusiastic tailgaters on every patch of grass on campus. However, there is a lot more to MSU than the green and white craze during football games. For many students, diversity isn’t on the list of the university’s most eye-catching and esteemed qualities — but it’s a significant part of MSU nonetheless.

International students made up 14.5% of the 49,000 students on campus in 2013, making MSU a nexus of cultures gathered by the common interest of education. Because campus can initially be hard to navigate, students might go through the majority of their undergraduate years without meeting people from other walks of life. As I personally experienced, finding outlets to meet others isn’t always obvious to underclassmen.

The community I came from was mostly white with a strong Asian American population. Even though my high school celebrated how diverse it was, we didn’t have very much integration between the different minority groups. I met one or two Latino students during my time in high school, but I never really interacted with the groups of African Americans I’d always see gathering in the same area.

Going to college, I thought I knew what it was like to be diverse. I never really understood that there was more to diversity than just having groups of different people in the same place. After hearing about MSU’s diversity, I brushed it off. Many colleges use it as buzzword to attract students, so I didn’t think MSU was going to be special. I was pleasantly proven wrong when I attended Spartan Remix.

The first thing that amazed me about the multicultural event was the sheer amount of attendees. It felt like there were at least 2,000 people. What surprised me more was the level of interaction among everyone. There were booths for cultural organizations representing ethnicities and student communities I never imagined beforehand. And everyone was welcoming each other. I couldn’t even count the number of times I saw two people from different ethnicities warmly greet each other. The music, activities and nearly everything else was completely new to me, and I left that night with a lasting impression.

After the event, I definitely noticed my experience in college change for the better. I became much more open to trying organizations and events — even if they were from a culture completely different from my own. Such eye-opening experiences on campus ultimately inspired me to become an intercultural aide. The job allows me to constantly interact with various students, and bring them together to form meaningful relationships. I wanted the opportunity to meet more people who are different from myself, and I also wanted to direct students toward culturally enriching opportunities.

Most of the college experience is shaped by what we do outside of the classroom. It’s very important to take the time to step out of your comfort zone and explore what our unique student body has to offer. It’s never too late to reach out and get to know your fellow students. Even with all of the multicultural events such as Spartan Remix and Global Festival, they aren’t the only places where you can experience a different culture. Whether it is greeting the person you’re sitting next to on the CATA bus or the people you are standing in line with, you never know when one interaction might turn into a lasting friendship. Later on in life, you might not be surrounded by cultural differences on a daily basis. There truly is no better time to expand your horizons than in college, where we all get to start our lives anew.

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