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From the Editor’s Desk: The importance of cultural awareness

This past Saturday night I decided to attend the United Asian Coalition’s event, Indonesia Night. Tempted by the free food, I brought my camera and recruited my roommate Kat and two TNH staffers, Jocelyn and Elizabeth to join the adventure. On our way to the Memorial Union Building (MUB) we all realized we knew absolutely nothing about Indonesia. Honestly, I wasn’t confident that I could point Indonesia out on a map.  All the more curious, we walked into the Granite State Room ready to learn.
Starting with the information tables lined with poster boards, traditional fans, clothing and instruments, we started reading all about the country of Indonesia. Everyone involved with the event was so friendly and willing to teach and talk to event goers about the nation. I soon learned that Indonesia is very culturally diverse. There are over 300 ethnic groups, each one having its own customs, traditions and dialects. As I looked around the room at the amount of international students attending the event, I couldn’t help but be embarrassed with myself. How many other cultures at UNH am I unaware of?
It’s no secret; this university consists mostly of white students. Take a look around; it’s nothing you need a statistic for. But if you wanted to get into the exact numbers behind it, UNH provides reports and data within the Community, Equity and Diversity section of its website. The latest diversity demographic data posted from fall 2015 shows out of the 12,494 undergraduate students in 2015, 10,077 were white. The rest of the population of undergraduates consisted of (and I am assuming are close to the numbers to the current data) 417 Hispanic or Latinos, 163 Black or African American students, 275 Asian undergrads, 24 American Indians or Alaskan Natives and then 211 “non-Hispanic two or more races” and 1,026 unknown.
At first glance, this may be disappointing to some, as it was for me the first time I took a look at these statistics my sophomore year. However, this does not mean students at UNH have no opportunity to meet others from different cultures and backgrounds or learn from them. The efforts on campus by multiple student groups to bring cultural differences and educational experiences to the community is very strong. Students work hard to ensure successful, fun and informational events such as Indonesia Night.
As a race and ethnic studies minor at UNH, I have learned how important it is to learn and expand personal knowledge on an array of cultures and backgrounds. This helps one understand how the world around them works. It stimulates the mind, forces one to think in new ways, fosters a greater understanding for others, not only peers at the university but also other people one might encounter beyond college. It is a way to realize there are multiple methods to approach different problems, that there is more than one approach to life. And lastly, being diverse in ones knowledge ultimately makes a person far more well-rounded.
Reading about different cultures and customs cannot amount to the experience one gets from meeting others from different backgrounds. I had never had Indonesian food, seen traditional Indonesian dance or fashion but after attending the event Saturday night, I learned that I absolutely love it. The food was amazing; I had been missing out for 21 years on delicious recipes. The clothing was beautiful and the dancing was engaging and interesting. I learned so much about not only a different country, but also the background of students around me.
I highly encourage all students to keep an eye out for more culturally enhancing activities and events around campus. You never know what will change your perspective.
-Allison Bellucci
Executive Editor

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