A college campus is the ideal place for a ‘melting pot’ because it meshes the rigors of academics and a diverse population to create an enriching atmosphere for students. Each of us brings our distinct cultures and customs into one enormous, invisible pot. The result is diversity personified, and what better way for each of us to get a taste of culture and variation than through the sharing of music, interests and beliefs.
Students first encounter diversity at UC Irvine in the dorms during their freshman year of college. New students get the opportunity to meet a variety of people from different cultures, religions, states and even different countries. By living in the same dorm or building, a common experience is shared with other students. Not only do freshmen sign up for Humanities Core or biology classes, but also a course on ‘Diversity: 101.’ As we get to know our roommates and dorm-mates, a rich network begins to bloom. Soon, the punk-rock music your roommate plays on her laptop, the Bollywood movie posters your neighbor down the hall has on his wall and the action-packed anime your housemate upstairs draws begin to expand and enrich your interests.
Our iPods are a clear example of how the influences of others revolutionize our individual preferences. If we scroll down our iPods or playlists, we’ll find that our music ranges from pop to rock, to international music such as Reggaeton, Hindi, K-pop (Korean pop) and more. Although these forms of music captivate and entice, they also represent many rich cultures. So, students are not just identified as the guy or girl from California or from out-of-state, but as a part of a community that reflects different cultures.
Another way we create open networks for exchange is through clubs and parties. These social interactions have given us the opportunity to meet new people and exchange ideas, likes and dislikes, and a better understanding of the different backgrounds that other students come from. Moreover, they allow us to find a common interest, so that the ‘melting pot’ is filled with a society and a community that reflects real diversity.
There is an assorted selection of clubs and activities that occur on campus that celebrate culture and diversity. The Ring Mall is the perfect stage for most culturally-affiliated activities. One can never know what one might learn, both culturally and academically, while walking to and from class. Sometimes the sounds of Jodaiko beating their drums resonate in the air, as they bring the beautiful Japanese art of Taiko to UCI. On other occasions, you can hear the upbeat sounds of hip-hop playing on the radio as Korean BBQ is being sold. These are just a few of the cultural activities that have been brought to the wonderful thing we like to call campus life.
Parties and nightlife are also another social scene from which much can be learned. After a tiring day of never-ending lectures and gruesome note-taking, the ideal setting for relaxation is a social gathering. What better way to meet new people? UCI is no exception to this rule. If the dorm rooms help bring social exchange, parties are the cosmopolitan of culture exchange. Although we might be busy dancing away to techno or heatedly discussing politics with that foreign-exchange student, we continue to make UCI a diverse campus.
As a result, we no longer solely represent one demographic, but have transcended into a multi-dimensional population. Therefore, our very assimilation into this multi-ethnic society binds us as one big cosmopolitan.
Although most of us have left behind the freshmen dorms, we still come face-to-face with people from all around the globe who continue to enlighten us about the diverse cultures that make up this world. The melting pot does not extract our culture, but rather meshes our beliefs, values, preferences and customs to ultimately create a form of community that embraces the tacos and Korean BBQ in one hand, hamburgers and naan in the other.
As each year passes and more freshmen and transfers enter the student pool, the new ingredients add a fantastic addition to the cultivated ‘melting pot’ on campus. So, as we eat the Korean BBQ with kimchi or the one-dollar hotdogs on Ring Mall, we continue to assimilate into a multi-ethnic society here at UCI.