This weekend, I had a very eye opening and influential experience.
On Saturday, my roommate and I decided we were going to explore Rome outside of the typical tourist areas and Prati, the area in which we live and study. Back in October, we had heard about this area of Rome called Esquilino through some classmates of ours. Esquilino is the area of Rome where the majority of immigrants live. It is a conglomeration of cultures, foods, clothing, spices, etc. From what we had read about it, my roommate and I thought it sounded pretty interesting so we decided we wanted to visit it before we left Rome. Saturday morning at about 11, we hopped on the metro and took it to stop “Vittorio Emanuele,” the stop in Esquilino. When we emerged from the underground metro station into the town, I was shocked by the diversity of people surrounding me. I realized that the only reason I was shocked was because the area where I live in Rome is home to wealthy Italians, all speaking the same language, dressing the same, going to the same places with, more or less, the same purpose. To say the least, there is hardly much diversity in appearance and ethnicity where I live.
Ana and I walked around Esquilino all day. We talked to people from China, Bangladesh, India, and a multitude of countries in Africa. About an hour or two into being in this area, I had almost an out of body experience in which I realized, saw, and noted how comfortable and at ease I was in this particular area. In fact, I was more at ease here than I usually am in Prati. I continued to think about this as we walked through the streets, and I believe the reason I was so comfortable is because of the diversity of people that I was surrounded by. I was fascinated by this because one would think that we all would be most comfortable in a setting with a fairly homogenous appearance of people, especially those who looked like us. But no, not for me. To me, comfort, ease, and excitement stem from being surrounded by so many different types of people.
I believe I felt this way because of how diverse the United States is. It is normal to be living amongst people with very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Later that same day, once we were back at campus, I was laying in bed thinking about what I had experienced that day, and then I started thinking about the political and racial tensions in the States nowadays. I became confused rather quickly. The diversity of our population is why the United States is such a special place. Why do so many people think that it is something to get rid of? I believe that the level of comfort I felt amongst such a diverse population proves how important diversity is in a global world nowadays. It is a beautiful thing and we can learn so much from people that are different from us, why would anyone want to squander that opportunity? I have learned so much these past three months just living with Ana because she is Cuban. She has taught me so much about Cuban culture, food, family, and even Cuban sayings that are unique to their country. No other Spanish speaking nations use some the sayings she has taught me. Even just from her I have learned so much, and I am so grateful she has been so open to educating me. All this exposure to diversity has taught me so much and even though I recognized the importance of diversity before coming here, now I have had so many opportunities and lessons learned from encounters with people who are extremely different from me. It has enriched me as a human being more than I ever could have imagined. I hope that many of the people back home who are fearful or against diversity become more openminded because it is truly a strength and a blessing of our nation, it is not something to shun or try and get rid it.
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
― Anthony Doerr