By Sylvia Kohl
Most people attend college for two reasons: to gain more knowledge and to develop the skills necessary to land a stable, long-term career. Of course, most students also get excited about the prospect of meeting new people and partying, but the main “goal” of college is intellectual and skill development.
However, there’s another goal you should add to your overall college experience: diversity, in every sense of the word. College is your opportunity to experience new people, new ideas, new customs, and new perspectives that you might otherwise never encounter, and it’s vital if you want to make yourself a better worker and a better person.
The Benefits of a More Diverse Experience
These are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy by partaking in more diverse experiences:
- Broadened perspectives. You won’t be limited to your worldview, and you’ll be able to consider things from more angles.
- New likes and dislikes. There’s a host of likes, dislikes, and interests out there that you still haven’t discovered.
- People and opportunities. It never hurts to expand your personal network of contacts.
- Memories, stories, and information. Even “bad” experiences eventually become entertaining stories to share.
- A foundation of openness. Experiencing diversity in college will make you a more open and inviting person for the rest of your life.
How to Have a More Diverse Experience
Those benefits sound great, but how can you actually have a more diverse experience? What does that even mean?
- Find a more diverse campus. Your first step is to find and attend a college with a penchant for diversity. Not every college is equal in this regard; some are larger, with a propensity to attract students from all over the world, while some are smaller and tend to attract locals and remain tight-knit. Look for colleges with a specific diversity program and goals, if you can. Of course, you may already be attending college; in that case, it doesn’t make sense to switch. Instead, consider looking outside your own university for those experiences if necessary.
- Experiment with other cultures. Most colleges offer a number of different cultural exposure opportunities. These may include guest speakers, classes about different cultures, or student groups and organizations that teach about and celebrate cultures from around the world. Track these opportunities down and partake in them; experiment with international cuisine, learn about new traditions, and meet people from another side of the world. You’ll be grateful you did.
- Take classes outside your comfort zone. Most colleges offer far more classes than any one student could ever take. Unfortunately, most students fill up their class schedules in the same way; they choose some mandatory classes, look for major-related classes that they’re already comfortable with, then choose a handful of random “interest” classes to fill in the gaps. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it prevents you from seeing as much diversity and breadth as you could. Look for classes different from what you’d ordinarily take—ones that will challenge you and force you to think in new ways.
- Attend meetings for various groups and organizations. Your college probably has dozens of different regular meeting groups and organizations on campus, representing multiple different cultures, perspectives, ideologies, and interests. Obviously, you’ll want to go for some that already fall in line with your current interests, but make it a point to attend meetings for some that don’t immediately interest you. This is one of the only ways to discover new interests you didn’t know you had—and even if you end up hating the experience, you’ll still walk away with a good story to tell.
- Talk to everybody. This is the most important step, and it’s the easiest one to take (for most people). No matter where you go or what you’re doing, make it a point to talk to people. Talk to other students in your class. Talk to people walking in the street. Talk to people in various groups. The more people you talk to, and the more different those people are from you, the better. If you’re introverted, this may take some practice before you feel comfortable doing it, but it’s worth it. Everyone has a story to tell and a perspective to share.
If you follow these five steps, you’ll be able to get more out of your college experience. You’ll walk away with a broader range of knowledge than you’d get in the classroom alone, and you’ll meet people and try things you love. It’s still important to focus on your academics and develop yourself along your career path as much as possible, but take the time to break out of your comfort zone as well. You may never have this opportunity again.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.