Friday, October 24, 2008

Dominican Diverse?

It's been almost four years since I graduated high school, but in the interim during my years at Dominican, I've realized something about diversity.

I don't think that Dominican will ever compare to the type of atmosphere I had in high school - even in grade school and junior high as well. By atmosphere I mean a diverse population of students. Maybe I was just lucky that the area I lived in was a "melting pot" (overused term, I know) of different cultures and ethnicities. Prior to attending Dominican, I felt that I was exposed to many more different cultures than I have ever been exposed to in college. From grade school through high school, I thought it was completely normal to have friends from very different backgrounds i.e. Filipino, Cambodian, Sri Lankan, Indian, Korean.

But either way, I recall something my older sister (who went to the same high school I went to) said about her undergraduate years at another university. She noticed that going from a diverse high school to a university was a culture shock for her. Reverse culture shock in the way you wouldn't expect. She was miffed that her university (a medium-sized university in Indiana, not a small one) was less diverse than her high school. The student population was majority white, German and Lutheran. Like me, she had good friends from different backgrounds - i.e. Thai, Jewish. She used to joke that she herself being Polish and Catholic - she was a minority at the university.

Now with my own college experience, I've kept my sister's words in mind as I notice the difference in diversity at Dominican. I don't feel the diversity as much as I did in high school. College, especially a liberal arts university, is all about broadening your horizons, right? I personally think that my high school experience interacting with different people was a richer experience than Dominican has ever offered. At my high school, we had a huge 'International Day' held annually on a Saturday. It was a great showing of all the different ethnic clubs (more ethnic clubs than I've seen at DU) at our school through food and entertainment. I miss that.

Now I know that Dominican is a small private Catholic university, so it may not have the same resources and opportunity to have the type of diversity I've grown up with. And judging by my sister's experience, it's like this at other universities as well. The high school I went to was a public one with 2,200 total students. I never thought I would ever decide to go to a Catholic university - it just worked out that way. The whole idea was weird to me since I've had a good experience with the public school system. The thought of going to the underfunded Catholic school (for grade school and junior high) associated with my church was not a desirable option.

And while in high school, everyone mixed with each other, I don't see that as the case at Dominican. Just at dinner tonight, I noticed that people of similar ethnicities/race sat with each other. I remember some of my friends at DU commenting a while back that there is more separation of people with different ethnicities. Black students sit together, Latino students as well as white students...all at separate tables. There are exceptions of course, but from my observation, the problem is still there. I've noticed that I have more white friends at Dominican than I ever had in high school. While I have other friends who are not white, I just have to say that my experience with diversity at my high school is incomparable to anything I've learned diversity-wise at DU. Like my sister, I feel like I was hit with 'reverse culture shock' too.

1 comment:

  1. The "reverse culture shock" hit me when I came, too. My high school was split almost in thirds: ~35% African-American, ~34% 'Caucasian', ~27% Hispanic, ~4% Asian.
    Of course, the fact that my high school senior class was as big as the number of undergrad residents last year still is a bit of a shock...