In 2012, I packed my bags and left my hometown. I never thought that I would leave Cambodia
and go to a place that I had previously only dreamed about. I was nervous but excited as I sat on
a plane for the first time. When I landed in Los Angeles, I was overwhelmed not only because of
the size of the airport, but because I was in a country where nobody speaks my language and the majority of the people do not look like me. When I arrived at my high school in New Mexico, my anxiety eventually disappeared. I saw kids my age from all different nationalities who were probably as nervous as I was, standing there with a welcoming smile. My high school had about two hundred students from 80 countries. I was the only Cambodian. Although it was difficult to adapt at first, I opened up, learned about people and their cultures, and shared mine. When I went to college, where the majority of students were American, I still carry the same principle: to live, to learn, and to share.
Every year I participated in cultural events that allowed me to share my culture, learn about others and be a part of the diversity in this country. During high school, I watched YouTube videos to teach myself Cambodian dances and martial arts so that I can teach other students and perform. Throughout college, I helped organize annual International Fair events during which I performed dances and songs, participated in costume shows and helped prepare food from different nationalities. All of these taught me that diversity is beautiful and exciting. Yes, we dress differently, we speak different languages, and we eat different food. But it is because of all these differences that this country and the world, are so colorful; and that it is more exciting to dance, to sing and to live. Diversity is also about our story. I never forget to bring up the life of people in Cambodia. Having grown up in an underprivileged community, I always want to give people an idea of the social issues such as poverty that have an impact on Cambodian people, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. So, as much as Cambodian culture is important to me, the story of Cambodian people is a crucial part of my identity that is always worth sharing. Only when we share our stories we will understand and have empathy for one another.
When I looked back at the past six years in the U.S., I am grateful for all the experiences that I have encountered through diversity. It is because of the multicultural environment and the willingness to embrace each other’s differences that I am more confident, that I am more openminded, and that I discovered my interest in classical music. Diversity is not just a celebration of different cultures, but it is a window through which you might find something that you really like. A window that shows you to the world where culture is not only where you come from, but also where you fit in. When I pack my bags for the next destination, I don’t feel nervous anymore. Instead, I am excited because there will be new things that I can see and learn. And no matter where I go, my principle to live, to learn, and to share will be with me.
*This article was a part my job application. I thought it’s a good piece, so might as well put it here.