What Does Diversity Mean to You: Exploring Personal Experience

“I am a small part of the world. I have a small voice ringing clear. But if I sing out for freedom, and you add your voice to mine, Together we have nothing left to fear.” These are words from a song that had a great impact on my life and I will quote the lyrics of it multiple times in this essay where I answer 'what does diversity mean to you?' 

I was born and raised in very small country with a population of three millions called Armenia. Growing up I was always told that Armenians are survivors and we are a unique nation. I remember during history classes at my school, our teacher would always stress out the Armenian genocide and how our ancestors got massacred because of our religion and ethnicity. Armenian genocide also known as Armenian Holocaust was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. Looking back to my school years I remember the feeling of hate and intolerance towards Turks.

What Does Diversity Mean to You: My Experience

Growing up in Armenian I was never worried about my skin or hair color wast majority of Armenian population, are Armenian christians. Growing up I was never exposed to diversity and I had very little to no knowledge of other cultures and religions. At the age of twenty-one I moved to the United States to reunite with my family. Fortunately or unfortunately, I settled down in New York, city known not only for empire state building, but also for diversity. It was back then when I first felt different and realized that people surrounding me are not like me.

At first It was hard for me to adjust, but later on I realized that every person is a door to a new culture. It is sad for me to realize that as a young child i was unintentionally exposed to racism and intolerance. In my opinion, when our teacher was trying to over stress our history and values she planted small seeds of hate and intolerance. The United States is made up of a multitude of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. It has always been called “the Land of the Free”. As an immigrant in the United States, I was seeking acceptance and the same time learning it myself. To me diversity is about embracing one another’s differences and uniquness. We all come from differnent backrounds and cultures , yet we all belong to one “human” race. I remember the day of my interview at the University of Minnesota , I was told that I am the only Armenian that ever applied to pass program at the UMN school of dentistry. I felt very proud but at the same time very sad.

The first day of dental school I remember walking into the classroom full of students and trying to find someone who looks like me or speaks the same language as me. Sadly for me I was not able to find a single armenian student in the whole school of dentistry. At the beginning I would feel a little jealous when my classmates talk in their native language and celebrate their hollidays together. However, soon enough I realized that I am a part of the DDS 2020 family. A class which is very unique but at the same time is a family despite racial, sexual or religious differences. It is my great pleasure to explore different cultures, food, hollidays with my classmates. To me it is very important to have a divers school and I do the best in my power to promote it. A lot of international students contact me via social media seeking information and advice for a pass program. Despite my hectic schedule with school I always find time to talk students applying and help out with application process. It was one of the most rewarding moments when the new pass students would come and thank me for help. I always try to encourage pass students to get involved in school activities and share their culture with classmates. I remember when we had to learn Indian dance with my classmate for the talent show. Or how we all celebrated Divali and Holli. I remember my classmate had a traditional costume for me. I thing after the graduation those will be the memories that I will carry out my entire life. I always try learn something new about my classmates and at the same time teach them about my culture.

Final Thoughts

To end up with, I am a small part of the world. I have a small dream in my eyes. But if I tell you my dreams (and if you add yours to mine) together we can reach up to the skies. What does diversity mean to me? Simply this: a community of unique and special lives coming together for a moment to create a legacy that will last a lifetime.

03 July 2023
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