A Wave of Diversity

A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

I once delightedly boasted of Dubai’s cohesive society – a medley of well-educated British businessmen, Emiratis adapting their lifestyles to the ever-changing social landscape, Southeast Asian workers fuelling the massive demand for cheap labor, and other assorted expatriates living their dreams out in the new land of opportunity. Despite the radical differences between the many cultures here, it seemed that everyone coexisted remarkably peacefully. Some even suggested that, besides the Emiratis, we had collectively formed an expatriate culture, a mesh incorporating the distinctive aspects of each individual ethnic group.But when the divides are tested, I have found Dubai to be as cohesive as identically charged magnets. Recently, I have been astounded to find that, even among my own friends, our bonds are largely determined by our ethnic and religious commonalities. This was painstakingly obvious when, a few weeks into my senior year, I admitted to a close friend of mine my doubts about religion and God. I felt comforted by his willingness to listen with an open mind, despite his staunch beliefs on the existence of a greater being. The next day, however, as I extended my hand to shake another friend’s hand, he yelled “don’t touch me!” and backed away in mock horror. The group of friends surrounding him, consisting of mainly Muslims, all grinned or burst into outright laughter. I was confused at first, thinking that I had missed out on some joke they had just shared on. But then they began chanting “atheist,” all the while maintaining their expressions of manic delight. I was stunned, firstly because of their immature, mob-like reaction, but also because the so-called friend I had confessed to thought nothing of betraying my personal opinions and feelings to other people. I immediately walked away from the circle I had once seamlessly fit into, still in disbelief over their reactions. Never would I have expected such a blatantly thoughtless response from a group of peers I once considered to be extremely open-minded and accustomed to diversity.I would not go so far as to say my life changed as a result of my conversion, but I definitely became more aware of the fragility of the toleration that so many tout as the crowning glory to cap Dubai’s architectural splendors. Because I have felt the shocking sting of prejudice and discrimination, I have made it a mission to be more accepting and open-minded myself, and now I am shedding my own prejudices. Instead of just showing toleration, which is really postponed rejection behind a mask of false goodness, I want to celebrate our differences as people but also our common ties as humans. Although my own actions may not have a world-changing impact, I want to promote that sense of openness in other people. My own efforts may cause but a ripple in the ocean of human thought, but with the support of others, I dream that our ripples may together cause a wave.

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