There are a multitude of different cultures and ethnicities represented in the student population at Brandeis. It is easy to “click” with people of similar backgrounds, but it is important to branch out to people who maybe don’t seem so similar to you on the surface. A lot of colleges push for diversity, and it is a shame to see so many people disregarding all the different faces around them, only to sit at lunch every day with people who come from similar socioeconomic, religious, and racial backgrounds. Many of us are guilty of doing this; in fact, most of us just do it because it’s easier. You may find, however, that you will get more out of your college experience by becoming more culturally aware of different groups of people that you not only read about in your Anthropology classes but that you interact with outside of the classroom.
It is rewarding to learn about new cultures by experiencing them through your new friends. For example, you may not have had the opportunity to visit Russia, but your Russian friend could teach you about where they were born, their country’s geography, and what foods are traditionally eaten in their family. You could even take a trip to Hannaford with them and cook up something like borscht. Likewise, hanging out with a Korean friend can get you access to Korean BBQ, a delicious treat that has not yet become mainstream in America. Or they may even have beauty secrets to share from Asia! Indian friends can also give you something maybe looked down upon in some cultures—a tattoo! Henna is fun and beautiful to wear on your skin (but it doesn’t last forever). Also, their Bollywood films and “Desi” music are fun to watch and listen to. Egyptian friends can teach you belly dancing, Israelis can cook up some falafel, etc., etc. While not all individuals from or with ancestors from certain areas will have the stereotypical traits and interests mentioned, you can and will learn something new from them that could enhance your life.
Many students at Brandeis are culturally aware and sensitive to others, but truly engaging with students of different ethnic backgrounds than yourself can be life-changing, from that first bite of palak paneer to discovering your newfound affinity toward Aishwarya Rai. Don’t be shy when it comes to making friends; whether you’re a new mid-year or a last-semester senior, it’s never too late to be a friend or make a friend.