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Higher Education Has Helped Me Appreciate My Culture

Growing up as a first-generation American was definitely an interesting experience. For a greater part of my life, I didn’t really acknowledge or value my culture as much as I should have. Interestingly enough, as I have gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate it much more. Much of this is thanks to higher education.

Since I grew up in a pretty white town, I never really had much cultural representation in school, or at least not an accurate one. A lot of stereotypes or inaccurate information led to just even more suppression of my culture. Mind you, I didn’t really know all that much about my culture besides food and some celebrations, but I never really appreciated them for their history.

When I first started at  UW, one of the first classes I took was an Intro to Women’s Studies class. There, I learned about the importance of oral history, as well as how vital storytelling is in a lot of non-western cultures. One of the biggest lessons I took from that class was the legitimacy of other forms of education that weren’t seen as such by western countries. The idea that all those times my dad or mom would tell me stories about their journey to this country or their lives before they immigrated to the U.S. was indeed part of my cultural history.

Higher education has also provided me with a more accurate and in-depth insight into world history in general. Public education tends to go more in the “white savior” direction with events in our past, which only leads to more suppression in different cultures. But, higher education has given me more opportunities to take classes about the history of my heritage. As I’ve learned the meaning of certain traditions and practices, it’s only led me to appreciate my culture more.

While studying at the UW, I’ve taken a Chicano studies class, a Spanish class, as well as courses that have taught me more about the country I’m from. Even learning some history about Mexico has been very eye-opening compared to the very little to none taught in public education. It’s led me to ask more questions at home with my parents and even do my own research to learn more about the past and present of Mexico’s culture and history.

As I learn more about the country my parents were born in, I feel a better connection to my culture. I don’t feel as whitewashed as I think I am, and it leads me to appreciate my history. Regardless of your heritage, I encourage you to try to do the same and learn more about yourself along the way!

marina martinez

Washington '22

Marina is a senior at the UW and is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Writing. Marina is a Washington native and is passionate about all things social justice, defeating the patriarchy, and writing. In her free time, she loves binge-watching tv shows, scrolling through tik tok, thrift shopping and napping.
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