Viewpoint: Celebrating the culture shock UAB offers

By on October 15, 2013

I met an interesting the other day. He asked me my race, and I told him I was Indian. He followed up my answer with “So you speak Muslim?”

At the time, I thought it was hilarious. We were on the freshman river rafting trip and I laughed for five minutes straight, for once distracted from the mosquitoes and the cold. He was a pretty nice guy, but he was terribly misinformed. This happened during the second week of school, and I had been hit with so much diversity when I first got here that I was shocked at his honest mistake. No need to worry though, because I sat down and explained the fact that a Muslim is a person who believes in the teachings of Islam, and being Indian does not entail this. I decided to explain to him the Hindu-Muslim conflict another day.

His question made me wonder how he was raised and where he studied. How did he get to this point? I may never find the answer to that, but I did learn something from him. I may have once thought it was unacceptable that he did not know the basics of my culture, but I realized that knowledge is just a pebble in the sea of ignorance we all swim in before leaving our home and seeing what the world has to offer. UAB strives to make sure that we leave here with a greater understanding of culture.

Ever since I arrived on campus, I find that social norm and etiquette that define us as a community at UAB tend to drive us apart everywhere else. It forces everyone to learn how to keep an open mind at all times, especially when meeting people. The nature of the student body population here comes extremely close to the vision that a lot of communities strive for, a place where everyone is given a chance to prove himself, regardless of background or belief. I’ve spent my first week overwhelmed, grateful, and astounded at UAB, all because of the way students create a joint effort to strive for greatness, whether it be in values or the student organizations. All of us freshman are in the same boat, coming out of our comfort zones to start a new life. The only reason the boat seems to stay afloat is most likely due to all of us collectively embracing the diversity at UAB. I have learned a lot, but most importantly, I have found that there is so much I have yet to learn.

Study abroad and other programs are meant to solve issues exactly like the one displayed by the poor guy who asked me if I “spoke Muslim.” Even if it is just moving from the South to the North to take a few classes, there are invaluable lessons that we can only learn when moving to a different place. When we leave the world that our parents or guardians have built for us, we each find different things. Those of us who find a culture shock would benefit the most from the diversity of UAB.

By: Surabhi V. Rao


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About Surabhi Rao

  • Prakruthi

    An interesting piece. Seeing as though i am indian, i can relate to this. I had an encounter once similar to this and i thought it was funny too! Ive always wanyed to go to a diverse school, and this is inspiring me to attend UAB one day. Great job!

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