Just a few weeks ago, that question came up when I spoke to the graduating class of the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka in India. I told them exactly what I tell our own UB students—that a multicultural perspective isn’t just nice to have but necessary in a global age. Speaking personally, having a multifaceted cultural background is a huge part of who I am and how I think about the world. The fact that I’m an Indian immigrant is just one dimension of that.
Like you, Doris, I love to travel. And I’m lucky to have been able to learn from many different cultures—from my education in India, Canada and the U.S. to my time as a visiting scholar in Germany, Italy and France.
So I can definitely relate to our large population of international students. I know from personal experience how terrifying, but at the same time incredibly exhilarating, it can be to study half a world away from one’s home country. Keeping up with your studies is challenging for any student, but it’s all the more so when you’re also trying to keep pace with a new world where the language, food, customs and landscape are unfamiliar as well.
The trick is to learn to embrace that feeling of unfamiliarity. That’s when the world really opens up to you. The ideas and insights I’ve gained from friends, classmates and mentors from all different cultures and walks of life have become a permanent part of how I think and act. And I hope in some small way I’ve been able to return the favor.
Whether you study abroad—as you and I have both done—or whether you spend your entire student career here in Buffalo, this is exactly the kind of multicultural experience you can have at UB. Our students come from all 50 states and about 130 countries, which makes for an incredibly vibrant mix of cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. Having that geographic, cultural and ideological diversity in the classroom and in our campus community creates an amazing living and learning environment.
Cultural fluency and global awareness aren’t just important for people who travel a lot. They’re simply essential tools for living in today’s world. When you graduate, you and your fellow alums will be competing in an international market for jobs—whether you stay here in Buffalo or move overseas. I think you’ll find that what you’ve learned at UB will prepare you very well.
But in the end, having a global perspective doesn’t really have anything to do with where you come from, or where you’ve traveled. It’s about taking every possible opportunity to broaden your horizons, test your own ideas and exchange viewpoints with people who see and experience the world in a completely different way—whether they’re from your own hometown or the other side of the globe.
Doris, my guess is that you’ve already had hundreds of opportunities like this at UB, and I want to thank you for sharing these opportunities with other students through the mentoring you do. I know many more exciting experiences lie ahead for you—in dental school and beyond!
Baclija, a senior psychology major from Westchester County, N.Y., who will enter the UB dental school in the fall, has been globally minded from the start. A native of Hungary, she studied for a semester at the University of Roehampton in London during her junior year and has mentored two UB international students, one from India, the other from China. Tripathi thanked her for guiding fellow students in a new land, pointing to the individual and collective benefits of cultural exchange. “People who are diverse, when put together as a team, have a much better perspective than they would otherwise.”