In the past, the majority of college students was from the same country and had similar beliefs and customs. Today, there is a wide diversity of students who come from all countries and who may, or may not, be accustomed to the traditions that native students follow. For entering college students who have never been exposed to this type of environment, it can be difficult to know how to interact with students that seem to be a lot different than they are.
Diversity by Design
Some colleges today are not only taking notice of the increasing number of students from other countries; they are embracing it. Cultural studies have become a basic part of university studies in many cases. These programs offer advantages to all students by encouraging interactions and learning from each other without the awkwardness that is common in a regular classroom setting.
The Value of Cross-Cultural Interactions
College isn’t the only place where more cultures are surfacing. Ours has become a cross-cultural society where employees from this country and many others must learn to work side-by-side. The interactions that students have in college provide them with a different type of education. They can vastly increase their knowledge base about the beliefs and practices of others that will make working in a diverse workplace later on an easier and more comfortable experience.
Too often, people mock or criticize what they don’t understand. When it comes to working with people who have traditions and beliefs other than their own, rejecting these people will have a negative impact on both individuals and the workplace in general. When there is a greater understanding between people of different cultures and a feeling of mutual respect, it can lead to mutually beneficial and satisfying relations in the workplace and beyond.
Students who do not have the advantage of cross-cultural programs in college should be willing to take the first step towards communicating with students from around the world. They may be surprised to find that they have more in common than they ever imagined.