When we first arrived, I was surprised by the diversity of students enrolled. I became nervous to receive my room assignment. What if I had nothing in common with my roommate? What if they were from a different country and didn’t speak English very well? I have to spend the next two weeks with them.
As I carried my things to the second floor, I saw my name posted on my room door next to a girl from Los Angeles, California. I got lucky. My roommate and I bonded right away. We both had the same sense of humor and laughed about everything. We also became friends with our suitemates who were from New York and Pittsburgh.
I didn’t get to know the other students. I only hung out with my roommates, until our teacher announced our final project and group assignments. My roommates and I were separated and put into groups with essentially strangers. I dreaded working on the project and had no intention of actually becoming friends with my group.
We had a ten page research paper and presentation due in three days. I thought we would just get the assignment done. But when we started working on the project, I got to know my team better. One of my teammates was from Chicago, another was an immigrant from Arizona, and the other traveled all the way from China. I loved hearing about their unique lives and I learned a lot more when I listened and paid attention to them. We worked well together and finally finished the project. We celebrated with ice cream and Imo’s pizza.
Coming from a small town with little diversity, it was a shock to be put in a learning environment where everyone was from a different background. It took awhile, but eventually I listened and got to know the people that weren’t like me. We all learned from each other and became good friends. Everyone’s different experiences and backgrounds allowed us to have great discussions in class.
I wish I had stepped out of my comfort zone and gotten to know the rest of the class before the end of the program. I shouldn't have waited so long. Honestly, I don’t know how much environmental science I learned, but my summer experience taught me to appreciate commonalities before differences. This is a lesson I will take with me to college.