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Opinion

Experiencing different cultures broadens viewpoints

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March 14, 2013

There are very few opportunities in life where you get to truly experience different cultures. I was restricted while growing up in a small white community in central Wisconsin.

However, going to college really broadened my horizons. I explored my options and decided to attend a multicultural conference this past weekend.

I attended the 29th annual American Multicultural Student Leadership Conference here at UW-River Falls. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. Meeting all kinds of people from different races and ethnicities was overwhelming.

The greatest part about the event was the diversity present. Over 400 people from schools across the state showed up. It was truly amazing seeing all kinds of people. Whether it was African Americans or Native Americans, nearly every race was present.

Some of the best experiences was just listening to students throughout the conference. They made their presence felt by presenting exhibits on different studies they had conducted. I saw one where a group of students from UW-La Crosse were developing an antibacterial drug. I also saw two students presenting on Kingian Nonviolence, a strategy for solving personal and community problems.

Ironically, one of the best parts about the conference had to do with learning meditation. Interim Assistant Director for Student Support Services Gina Sevick gave a presentation on how meditation can improve focus, relieve stress and increase productivity.

All of us have busy lives and get distracted easily. Sometimes we just need to stop and relax, and meditation will do that. Through a practice session it felt like I was sitting down for 20 minutes, but came to find out I was only sitting down for five minutes. It can feel like you’re there forever, but afterward I felt refreshed and ready.

Growing up in a small farming community in central Wisconsin, I was never able to be around people of different color. I grew up around middle class folks: farmers, carpenters, teachers, etc. All were white. It was a shame to never be around people of different color growing up. All that started when I got to college.

For example, I took a part in an exercise where I got to sit down around people of different color and hear their viewpoints. It was an exercise where students were split up to either seek viewpoints from their own race, or go somewhere else. I decided to attend the African American assembly and see how they are viewed by people and the media. It was interesting to get a perspective as a white man and hear how they are viewed.

What I took away from this conference is that everyone is the same. I didn’t judge a person based on skin color, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

We all should be united as one, but in a country like this it doesn’t come that easy. People are divided on many things and race is still a problem.

Attending this conference really made me appreciate people from all levels of life. Listening to all the speakers really moved me. For once, it was nice to see that me, a white college student in his early 20s, felt like an outsider. Embracing all kinds of culture is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Adam Tilson is a student at UW-River Falls who is originally from Neillsville, Wis. He loves playing video games, watching movies -- especially classics, fishing in the summer and trying new activities.