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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student diversity at Brandeis

Published: March 7, 2013
Section: Opinions

One of the characteristics that distinguishes Brandeis as one of the most recognized colleges in the nation is the nature of its vibrant, diverse student body. There are, of course, a number of different social, ethnic and cultural groups within the United States, but it is the elemental addition of international students to our community that enriches every student’s experience at Brandeis. There is a variety of reasons to believe that this is not casual: Brandeis dedicates many resources and much effort to attract international students and make them feel at home in order to capture the most talented and enlightening individuals around the globe.

This is a win-win situation: Brandeis achieves recognition and provides a multicultural, more attractive campus to students, while international students find the unique opportunity of American education at one of its best schools. I have said that Brandeis is a distinguished institution, but why do international students specifically choose Brandeis? Why go to Brandeis and not somewhere else, or stay at home with their families and friends? Here are some reasons.

Brandeis takes a lot of care for its students once they are on campus, providing spaces for conversation and support for students who miss their homes, their cultures and their friends. There is always a comfort session to go to, an information meeting or a hotline to get in touch with university authorities who are ready to promptly provide face-to-face time. All with the aim to make sure students are happy.

Just by scanning through the list of clubs and organizations, one finds numerous clubs reflecting the diverse background of its members: International club, BASO, Tango club, Chinese Cultural Connection and many more examples reflect the quantity, density and diversity that everyday activities embody. Furthermore, other organizations such as sports teams or artistic clubs show a deep integration among students. It is not the case that each group is closed to others. Rather, students get together and share experiences, anecdotes, ideologies, cultures and perspectives.

When in conversation with several international students, many have also highlighted that, even though they enjoy spending time with fellow countrymen, they appreciate the company of Americans for social activities. This suggests that the friendly and curious mindset of the majority of the student body is a major contributor to the positive atmosphere with which international students are fascinated. This comes as no surprise. Brandeis has a well-known reputation for being very accepting, tolerant and open minded. When consulted about their practices, creed, political ideology or even tastes in music, most of the students have no problem in answering honestly, with no fear of prejudice or judgment. It should be recalled that at this campus we have Jews, Christians, Muslims, Democrats and Republicans, Socialists, Communists, Emos, tech geeks, athletes and hipsters, and all find their happy place at Brandeis without much effort, and without confrontation with other groups.

College life is one of the most exciting phases of life. It brings us in contact with our academic passions, of course, but it also presents us with the opportunity of expanding our horizons, of experimenting with new things, meeting new people and getting in contact with new unknown ideas. There is no doubt that the presence of international students deepens the cultural revolution all of us go through when we leave our homes and move into campus.

Their different perspectives, sets of values, ideas and visions of the world allow us to learn, to become better informed and well-rounded individuals. This is extremely valuable, not only for our future professional careers, but also as human beings, to achieve a better understanding of the world around us. This helps us to better understand problems and search for solutions in order to contribute to and build a more peaceful and prosperous place in which to live. In this way, we will honor Justice Brandeis’ idea of social justice.