Living the full duration of my 17 years in metro Vancouver, I have always been immersed in the cultural diversity this city embodies. My first day of kindergarten at Sir William Osler Elementary, I walked in and sat down to find myself the only Caucasian student in the class. After spending a year being introduced to a variety of styles of living, cultural activities and cultural expectations at the ripe age of five, my exposure to other cultures developed rapidly and intimately through the friendships I formed.
Now in my senior year of high school, I reflect back on all my years as a student among peers so much like me yet diversified by their country of birth; distinct in traditions instilled within from all corners of the world. My current high school, Rockridge Secondary, is riddled with students from all areas of the globe. Students from China, Korea, Germany, Italy, Brazil and Mexico all feed into the kaleidoscope that makes up a large portion of the participants of my everyday life. Walking into our tiny cafeteria feels similar to that of the food court in Pacific Center with different aromas, sounds and accents assailing your senses from every angle. This melting pot instantly immerses me in the simple awareness of the simultaneous familiarity and foreignness of our multicultural city.
I had never truly noticed the day to day impact on me of constantly being surrounded by people speaking different languages, eating foreign foods and celebrating different holidays, until recently. It was not until I took a moment to examine this that I realized how different I would be as a person if I had not had access to such a culturally enhanced education, the lucky by-product of simply living where I do.
While at school, I met one of the most sincere, interesting and genuine people I have ever known. A vibrant boy from Mexico City who came to Vancouver to enrich his education and have an experience away from home unlike any he had had before. This boy quickly became not only my best friend but the entire school’s friend. To this day, five years later, the majority of my grad class are still in touch with him, and he comes back once a year to visit. I have shared all my major moments with him and been the beneficiary of a friend who has different influences, different perspectives and different expectations, all instilled within in him by his culture. I can’t imagine ever having not known him, not having received the benefit of his influence, not having been touched in a very personal way by the Mexican culture through my friend. Nor can I imagine going to a school in a city where opportunities to meet new people from multiple places across the world didn’t exist.
When I see something foreign and new each time I walk downtown, I experience much the same emotions I do when I see a sunset over the ocean, emotions of gratitude and a thrill. Both experiences envelope me in a sense of wonder and a sense of comfort all at once. It is a true blessing to live in Vancouver, to be immersed in one of the most culturally accepting cities on the planet where uniqueness is encouraged and developed. It is inspiring to live in a city that welcomes rather than excludes and gives platforms for the cultural initiatives and thought provoking ideas that fuel the planet. I am proud to say that I am a citizen of the multicultural metropolis that is Metro Vancouver, and I will forever be mindful and grateful of how it has positively shaped me as a person.