Diversity Lessons

What contributions would your culture and background make to campus?


In the past, whenever I have been confronted with a question on an application asking about “contributions of your cultural or ethnic background”, I have always thought that such essay prompts were not written for me. Such topics, I facilely assumed, were meant for people whose cultural narrative was far more varied than mine – for immigrants from faraway countries, or for biracial individuals discovering their mixed identities. Ironically, it was my roommate of three years, herself an immigrant from the faraway country of Burma, who reminded me that I do indeed have a relevant story to tell.

I grew up in a semi-rural community in southeastern Massachusetts with a white population of 97% or more. The homogeneity of the community is such that I can count on one hand the number of ethnic minorities in my high school graduating class. Coming to Harvard was thus an enormous change for me on many levels; by the conclusion of my freshman year, my circle of friends constituted a veritable United Nations in microcosm. I had grown close to international students from Burma, Jamaica, and Tanzania, immigrants from Mexico, Poland, El Salvador, and China, and American-born students of Indian, Caribbean, and mixed racial descent. In short, I...

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