Jumbo Exchange: Appreciating diversity

The fact that this week is the final week of classes makes me realize that it’s really the end of the semester, which also means the end of my exchange program. The next three weeks are likely to pass quickly because I’m going to be busy writing essays and studying for exams. Besides that, I’m currently working for a summer camp designed for Japanese high schoolers as an executive committee member to organize some programs.

Recently, I quite often have had the opportunity to think about diversity. As everyone knows, there are a lot of characteristics that play into diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, political beliefs, and so forth. For me at least, some of these factors are hard to immediately appreciate just by studying or learning about them. In my opinion, first-hand experiences lead to a better understanding of diversity.

For example, it was not until I came here to Boston that I saw a gender-neutral bathroom. I knew of gender-neutral bathrooms and the debates that have occurred with regards to the necessity and legitimacy of that type of bathroom for the past several years. However, when I saw it for the first time, it still kind of shocked me — a person who has lived, for more than 20 years since I was born, in a country where gender distinctions are pervasive in much of society.

At first, I felt a little awkward to use the bathroom because I was anxious that my presence in the bathroom would make other users feel uncomfortable or endangered in any way. However, seeing people use the bathroom in a regular fashion regardless of their gender identity made me realize that I was the only one who was worrying about things like that, and then quickly got used to it. From such moments, I have learned not only how the advocacy of diversity can be put into practice, but also how important first-hand experience is in this regard.

Of course, knowledge is also really important. It’s sort of embarrassing, but I didn’t know the concept of “body positivity” until I came to Tufts. That is why when I first heard about the Tufts Burlesque Troupe, I was again kind of shocked, but then came to find it interesting and cool. Luckily, I was given a ticket for the burlesque show by a friend, and I could go watch it. The event itself was so much fun and one of the most unique experiences during my stay in the States. Crucially, I think I was able to enjoy it a lot because I took the initiative to learn about body positivity before going.

There are so many other examples that I can’t describe them all here. When it comes to diversity, living in the States is fundamentally different than in Japan, whose population primarily consists of one single ethnicity. First-hand experiences I had here sure have helped me view the world differently than I used to.