Diversity Matters: There’s a Wider World

College-student-in-hijab-talking

Diversity in education matters, and it plays an important role in Pearson’s mission of helping people make more of their lives through learning. Our differences give us unique perspectives that can enrich our learning, work, and lives. This blog post is part of our Diversity Matters series exploring different perspectives on why diversity matters in education. For more commentary and resources on the importance of diversity, visit our Diversity and Access website.

 

As a part of the Honors Program at Saint Louis University, students have the opportunity to be partnered with an international student for a semester. The goal is to learn from one another, and to expand one’s cultural and global awareness. I wish I could say that I signed up for the partnership out of a real desire to broaden my cultural horizons, but I didn’t. I chose it because it sounded like the easiest way to earn credit. Like many of my peers, “diversity” and “inclusion” were just buzzwords that had been thrown at us too many times to count; they had almost lost their meaning. This partnership, however, would soon show me just how important the meaning behind those words could be.

Over the course of the semester, my partner, a Muslim woman from Saudi Arabia, and I went to restaurants, malls, and a few St. Louis tourist attractions. I learned what it was like to walk in her shoes. People stared at us as we walked by, as though they were questioning why I would be with a woman in a hijab. She seemed used to the attention, and it appeared as though she ignored it. When someone would talk to her, they would first speak to her very slowly, and then immediately look to me as though I were her translator; they assumed that her English was poor.

Although this country is known as the “melting pot,” I can’t say that I was surprised at the curiosity her appearance evoked. We are taught to appreciate our differences and celebrate other cultures, but this does not always happen in practice; we are either too afraid to step out of our comfort zone, or don’t have a desire to understand other viewpoints. This semester showed me the importance of expanding my cultural awareness. My partner and I had conversations about religion, tradition, women in the workforce, and other topics that vary by culture. I was able to consider viewpoints that I had not previously encountered. It helped me to view my own culture and lifestyle from the outside looking in, which was truly insightful.

For these insights to happen, I first had to have the opportunity to interact with someone from a different culture. Thanks to SLU, I was able to get that chance, which highlights the importance of programs such as these in education. Being able to engage with people from other countries and ethnicities can help students to expand their ability to view the world and their place in it from other perspectives. This insight can lead not only to greater personal understanding, but also to a wider tolerance for the opinions of others and a greater appreciation for differences.

Join the conversation at #DiversityMatters, or if you want to connect with Tara, contact @t_eernst.

About the Author
Tara Ernst
Saint Louis University • Saint Louis, MO
Tara Ernst

Tara Ernst

Tara is proud to work with Pearson as a Regional Coordinator for the Central Region. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. After graduating, she plans to pursue a Master of Education in higher education to continue helping students at the university level. Outside of class, she belongs to the Honors Program and is highly involved in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.


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