Submitted by Alexandra Tsanang
For most people, moving to a new country is an intense experience. For me, it was a
life-altering moment that completely changed my perspective on the world, others, and,
especially, diversity. I was fifteen years old when my siblings and I relocated from a small
village in the central region of Cameroon to the United States. The world I grew up in was
completely different from the one I was being transplanted into.
Before moving, I lived in a society where everyone spoke the same language, valued the
same culture, and ate the same food. In leaving this monoculture environment for the United
States, I had to learn how to integrate myself into my new culture and interact with others who
had a different background from mine, while learning to love and accept new people and their
Days after our arrival, I started school. As I walked through the hallway, turning my head
left and right to find my way around its complex infrastructure, I finally found my first-period
class. It was a middle-sized room with a diverse pool of students, from South America to Asia, as well as parts of Africa. As I stepped into the class, the teacher happily walked me to my seat. As days passed, we were increasingly required by the teacher to work in groups. Each member of my group had a different culture. They spoke Chinese, French, English, and Spanish; some were Christians, some were Muslims, some held no religious beliefs. Sharing my opinion with others was not something I was used to. I initially did not want to stay and work in my group. I isolated myself from my group members because I was new and diversity was new to me. I was scared that I would not be able to accept their differences, and they would not be able to accept mine.
This behavior persisted until the day we had to work on a very important project. It
consisted of creating a parachute that would safely land an egg when thrown from the roof.
Sitting quietly, I saw my group members struggling to find a solution. Seeing how hard they
were working together, I knew I needed to break out of my bubble and help them, for the project to be successful. At that moment, I knew I had to learn to be open-minded, considering and accepting people and ideas that might seem different than mine, even though it would be hard due to my lack of experience. As I stood up from my seat and walked to my group station, I felt a sudden relief. As I started collaborating with my group members, I felt welcomed.
When we finished our project, we remained in our group and watched each other, waiting
for the winning team to be announced. I felt a sense of unity within the group. The teacher
announced that our group won; when I heard the results, I felt happy and inspired. From that
moment on, I realized that we did not win solely because of the tremendous amount of effort we put into our work, but also because we worked together and used our differences, flaws, and
cultural backgrounds to strengthen and empower each other.
I have grown from this experience, and I now see myself standing and helping others no
matter their differences. Being able to change my beliefs to accommodate others was, and still is, the most valuable lesson I have ever learned. I understood that race, culture, and background are part of our identity, and these differences, rather than being problems, are benefits we have to offer each other. Every day, I acknowledge that I have to work hard in school and love and show affection for everybody around me, no matter their country of origin or background.
Submitted by Alexandra Tsanang
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