I came to this city as an international student from Kenya. Living on campus and going to a university outside the country I grew up in opened my eyes up to a variety of people from an array of cultures and backgrounds. Through living on campus and just generally going to classes, I met some very interesting people. And, to top that off, they were all from so many different parts of the world; some, from countries that I had never met another person from before.
This is one of the reasons that I was very proud of my closest group of friends that I had made and became very close to over the last few semesters; not only because they are good people, but also because they were from such different parts of the world. Each person is from a different country, speaks a different language and has a very different culture to speak and tell stories about. The City of Vancouver is comprised of many international students and workers, families that have been settled here over many years, and people of many sexual orientations, living bold and proud in the city, like I have never seen before.
For a large part of my life, I thought that diversity was just different cultures. One of the best examples I can think of from the recent past was how I spent my Christmas Eve – it was a true melting pot of people from all over the world. I spent the evening at a Filipino family friend’s house where I met people from Nigeria, India, Mexico, and Japan.
In writing this column and living in Vancouver, I have discovered the true meaning of the word. Diversity is not always about cultural differences, it can also arise from a difference in political opinions, clothing, accents, food and interests in music and film – anything. Being a part of this city is the simplest of ways to open the gates to diversity. There are events that happen throughout the city that can cater to your interests and tastes. Being a part of the city and using some city-wide hashtags on social media can help you uncover numerous food bloggers, skateboarders, photographers, writers – the list is endless.
Just by being somewhat outgoing at university, I was fortunate enough to be a part of various different clubs, each different from the other, be it cultural or intellectual. And even if someone does not have access to university clubs to meet people, there are many other options today, thanks to the media we are surrounded by. I have found various websites and apps that help you meet like-minded or totally different people around you. And the many websites like the former boredinvancouver.com can give you an insight of the kind of activities or events happening in your city.
Vancouver may not be the friendliest of cities and it must be very tough for someone completely new to the country or city to settle in here. I think back to my first semester of university as I type this. It was very difficult to meet and make friends, but knowing that tools like social media, websites and apps exist helps. Mediums such as this can help you find people who have similar or even polar opposite interests as you.
The more I think about it, the more I learned and realized what diversity is really about. Yes, being a diverse society means to have a variety of nationalities and cultures surround you. But having many other differences in taste and choice and still coming together as one, sharing them with others and increasing your knowledge and taste, is also diversity.