My interest in diversity and inclusion started when I was traveling 36 countries in Asia, Middle East, Europe, and Africa. It was a project that my friends and I planned together: having one and a half year off from our college, and moving toward the west by land from Tianjin, China. During this trip, I was fascinated that the students from other universities in various countries were studying the same thing to mine. We all looked different but shared the same thoughts. Also, the numerous travelers I met, including hippies or Japanese freeters, showed me non-stereotype lifestyle that could be as happy as another stereotype lifestyle. With this experience, I could throw away my prejudice and gain a wider view of life.
The interest in diversity and inclusion continued to my graduate student life. Last semester, I participated in Virginia Tech Diversity scholar program. In this program, the participating students each suggested an initiative to promote the climate of diversity and inclusion on campus. In my case, I noticed that international students did not have enough chances to socialize with others outside their community, such as international students with different nationalities or students from the US. There were some events for socialization, but students were not much engaged in the existing events. Based on the thoughts that students would be more engaged with self-directed activities, my initiative was a series of culinary classes for sharing various recipes in the world among the students. These were student-led classes, thus, any Virginia Tech student who volunteered could be the instructors. Although this project ended up with Asian Cooking Classes because only Asian students volunteered to be the instructors, the events were successful. Studying and cooking some dishes together, we had a great time. The photos of the events are found here:
This project provided an opportunity to explore different cultures and offered a common interest which could bind students with different backgrounds together. At the same time, the project led me to think about how to utilize my previous experiences in promoting diversity on campus.