Diversity/cultural experience

Skin tones ranging from eggshell to beige.
Diversity of skin tones ranging from eggshell to beige.

Part of my struggle with the grad school process is the application questions that ask me to describe my experience with diversity and difference. As a white person growing up in rural Wisconsin and now living in Minnesota, ethnic diversity is something I have to seek out. I certainly welcome it in kind of a passive way, but that doesn’t answer the question of what  the hey I’m going to write about.

Homework Hub might count. Most of the kids I work with are Somali. But it’s not like we’re sitting around talking like, “Hey, so how’s being Somali going? Good, right?” I mean, they’re just kids doing homework. One girl I worked with had to write about an issue that was important to her, and she chose the Somali civil war. That’s about as close as we’ve gotten to talking about it. Maybe I’m supposed to say something like, “I was able to look past their hijab and their skin color and see them for who they truly are,” but that seems like the bare minimum to qualify as a decent human being.

If I end up doing ESL/Spanish teaching, I’ll have to volunteer for 100 hours in an ESL classroom. Would that count? I guess so, although it’s kind of the same deal as above.

I did go to Mexico as a high schooler. It was my first significant amount of time in a city, and that blew my mind. I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to Mexicans when I was there, though. It was a different culture, but it was a long time ago. Have I really not had any other experiences since then? Have I really not traveled abroad since 1990? Jesus.

My better angle might end up being focusing on the economic disparities rather than the ethnic/language ones. Talking about the challenges of working with kids who, for example, had to have breakfast at school, or have to move around a bit due to some home insecurity.

Maybe I should wait and have the experience before I try to determine a filter through which to view it.


2 thoughts on “Diversity/cultural experience

  1. Socioeconomic diversity is totally legitimate in my book. We’ve just gone through a hiring cycle where one of the questions that we ask is about “experiences with diversity” and it is always interesting to see what people associate with that term. A few people actually manage to hit lots of different aspects of diversity, but for an admissions essay on “diversity and difference” I think you could take a very broad view of the terms and be just fine. For that matter, what experiences have you had dealing with political differences? or perhaps religious ones? gender differences?

    • Thanks, Jehane. Obviously, this would be easier if I had, say, Peace Corps experience or something similar. But not everyone has something that clear-cut. I’ll give it some thought. I’m sure that a lot of the “test” is to make sure you don’t say something racist or patronizing.

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