When I began the arduous college search my junior year of high school, I prioritized two things: a city environment and diversity. I’m from a very small, rural town in northern New Jersey, and I was one of about five black kids in my graduating class of 248 students. Diversity was not something I was exposed to growing up, so I was more than ready for college to drastically change that. I made it a goal to attend a city school, largely because of internship opportunities, but also because of the assumption that any university with a large student population in an urban setting would have every ethnicity and culture imaginable. As I walked down Commonwealth Avenue on the first week of school, I began to realize that diversity at Boston University was not exactly what I expected.
According to The College Board, BU’s student population is 43 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic/Latino and 4 percent black or African-American. The disparity between races is clear, but the
racial diversity I sought wasn’t about numbers — it was about interactions among people of different backgrounds. I guess I inadvertently pictured racial distribution as a subset of this expectation. For the first few weeks of school, I based my judgement of BU’s diversity purely on what I saw around campus, and I honestly didn’t see a lot of color. The fact that I didn’t see as much blatant racial diversity as I hoped for was a bit disheartening at first. How was I supposed to make friends with experiences similar to my own? Was I going to feel isolated and ostracized by ignorant comments and judgmental stares? Would college be high school all over again? All of these thoughts raced through my head as I noticed how some racial groups clearly overshadowed others. But once I started joining clubs and getting to know different people all over campus, I realized that although racial diversity may not be as present as I’d hoped for, the multitude of cultural experiences that encompass BU more than make up for it.
I’ve met people who have lived in Germany, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Haiti and all across the United States. I’ve met people with unique family backgrounds and histories. Meeting these people made me realize that a lack of racial diversity doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of worldliness or variety. College has exposed me to people of all different upbringings, regardless of their color. Consequently, I’ve also met people at BU who I can relate to and identify with. All in all, my experience has shown me that while racial diversity is important, a diversity in culture and experiences are what bring people together.
But enough about my experiences. I asked five freshmen what they’ve observed about diversity at BU after a few months on campus. Here’s what I learned:
“I really love our great, diverse community we have here. Being able to share my culture while learning about other cultures all while receiving a great education has been a really positive experience for me. At one of the extracurricular events I was attending, I actually met someone who was also Armenian and that was really cool, coming from a culture with not too many people in it. I always enjoy meeting new people who share my heritage.”
Anto Kechejian (Economics, College of Arts and Sciences)
“I thought that BU was going to be more diverse than it actually is because I thought that there would be more different cultural groups represented here on campus quantitatively, even though I qualitatively found that there are a variety of different groups represented. I have met very diverse people from different backgrounds that have really given me a pretty good perspective on their different backgrounds and their different diversities individually, but I think numbers-wise, it hasn’t been as diverse as I thought it would’ve been. My high school was pretty diverse, but it wasn’t as diverse as I would’ve wanted it to be which is why I came to BU and I thought that it would be even more diverse … but it kind of is the same.”
Tatiana Kovalsky (Psychology, CAS)
“It seems that BU students, even if they’re not from international places, know a lot about the world and how it works, which is nice to see as an international student. I think that everybody is very accepting of international kids, they seem to be well integrated into BU’s society. There’s more racial diversity at BU than at my school in Hong Kong, even though it was an international school. You have people who grew up in areas all over the world and they’re still grounded in that American education system, but they bring their perspectives from their respective areas of the world to BU.”
Mats Najberg (International Relations, The Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies)
Germany and Hong Kong
“I think that Boston is pretty amazing because I came from a small town where it was kind of Irish-Catholic Republicans, and I was pretty different there. It’s just pretty cool seeing the backgrounds of everyone else, even people I know personally are from so many different countries and they know different languages. They all have so many different experiences and even mine is unique to theirs, so I think it’s really cool to get to know people. My town was a very small suburb, like its own separate world. I went in blind, kind of assuming there would be some more [diversity] in a city, and I’m pleasantly surprised because I think people are just generally more accepting.”
Andrew Shin (Undeclared, CAS)
Cornwall, New York
“One of the things I was looking for in a college was one that was very diverse, and BU is very diverse, in the sense of black students in college. In other schools, there’s less black students and there are definitely more here at BU. I don’t know how advanced all the students at BU are with racially thinking, though. My high school was pretty much like how it is here: 90 percent white students, 7 percent Asian, and 3 percent black or Hispanic students, so [BU] isn’t that different from what I’ve experienced, but it is a little bit racially charged I think. Like one time, I went to a party and they were letting people in, but once me and my friends came they were saying they were at capacity, so they turned us away. Then it seemed that every party we were going to was saying they were “at capacity,” but when we turned around they would sneak white girls in. My whole group was black or Hispanic. Even white guys who we were with us were getting in, and that was my first weekend at BU, so I was like, “Oh wow…” But other than that, I feel like I’ve met a lot of really nice people, not just black people but people from everywhere. And they’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Alexa Macgranaky-Quaye (Biology, CAS)