Having been raised in a small mountain community for the first 18 years of my life, diversity was somewhat foreign to me. After moving to Spain, however, my exposure to diversity and the world around me has increased tenfold.
I feel like we use the word “diversity” so regularly that we rarely stop to think about the weight that it carries. It isn’t just a reference to the color of our skin or the country we’re from. Sure, our physical traits certainly offer a form of diversity, but to me, diversity is so much deeper than that. Life experience, political beliefs, financial background, life-altering moments, educational experiences, and so much more all make up a wide network of diversity on this Earth. With so many differences from person to person, it’s our duty as good citizens to surround ourselves with any means of diversity in order to build compassion in all that we do. That said, this access to diversity hasn’t always been the easiest for me.
Allow me to set the scene. I was born and raised in a small town in Colorado called Evergreen. Evergreen is situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, around an hour outside of the city of Denver. Developed in 1859 as a community of settlers, the town slowly grew to be a popular summer destination for wealthy families looking to escape the Denver heat. Fast forward to 2020: the demographics of my town haven’t changed much.
Growing up, I came to acknowledge the “bubble” that Evergreen truly was. Different ways of thinking, different ideologies, different upbringings—different people altogether—were all rare to come by in my small town. The last census conducted revealed Evergreen’s population to be just over 9,000 inhabitants, with 97.35% identifying as “white/caucasian.” As a direct result of my community’s demographics, I was raised with little to no exposure to religions other than Christianity, socioeconomic statuses other than what would be considered middle to upper-middle class, languages other than English… and so many other aspects of life that make the world that we live in diverse.
When I was 12 years old, I began to struggle with my sexuality, and over time—with the incredible support of my family—came out as gay before I had even finished middle school. I will never forget my mom telling me, “You know that I’ll always love and support you. I’m just scared for you. The people in this world can be cruel.” Though she didn’t exactly say it, I knew that she was referring to many of the people in my very own town. As expected, I went on to have my fair share of conflicts with the closed-minded people of Evergreen before going to university. That said, those experiences pushed me to seek discomfort in my own life.
I grew to believe that the underhanded whispers and abrasive messages on social media were a reflection of my peers’ lack of exposure to the world that exists outside of Evergreen. With that realization, I also began to understand my own biases and beliefs that I had developed as a result of my sheltered upbringing. As I began my college search in 12th grade, I knew that a diverse and accepting campus was of the utmost importance to me. Now that I’ve found myself here at IE University, I couldn’t be happier given the criteria I had established for my future school.
Here at IE University, a holistic and immersive academic experience is stressed in all aspects of campus life. More than 60,000 alumni, plus professors and current students, represent a vast network of over 160 different nationalities. This is a fact that few, if any, universities across the globe can boast. Along with all of these nationalities comes so much more to learn from. In the few short months that I’ve been here at uni, I’ve learned new words, new political systems, new cultural taboos and new identities that I had never been exposed to in my entire life. It’s mind-blowing to realize how big the world truly is after living in your own “miniature” world for the past 18 years.
As a student of the Bachelor in International Relations, my professors have stressed the importance of understanding your personal biases and putting them aside in all that you do, especially in this career path. In the classroom, we are pushed to discuss our beliefs and experiences in life, just as much as we are pushed to listen to our fellow peers with compassion. I believe that this basic act of understanding is something that we do too little in life. In a world of gridlocked politics, cultural conflicts and religious disagreements, a part of life should be understanding that people have diverse ways of thinking.
At IE University, diversity is harbored not only in the classroom, but in daily life as well. With various clubs and activities, you’re destined to both find your place and discover new interests. In fact, there are over 150 clubs between the Madrid campus and the Segovia campus, all of which offer new insight into the many ways to develop as a global citizen. Though there are far too many to mention here, below are a few that I would like to highlight:
- IE Out and Allies Club
- IEU Girl Up Club
- The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Project
- IEU Cultural Diversity
- IEU Global Discussion Club
- IEU Rotaract Club
As someone who once didn’t fit in, I can confidently say that I’ve found my place here at IE University. Everything that makes you unique, everything that makes you diverse and everything that makes you, you, is celebrated. The culture at IE University harbors diversity in every sense of the word. It’s truly incredible. I love that each and every day is a new experience to further my understanding of the world, even through a simple conversation with one of my peers. After 18 years in Evergreen, I was scared that it would be hard to find another place that really felt like home. Today, however, I couldn’t be more proud to call the beautifully diverse and accepting community of IE University, home.