It is a huge opportunity for me to live in a diverse community of people from different races living in one place, one country. It is a blessing to learn and know their culture and customs. However, settling in a multicultural society is also unconnected and lacks mutual common sense.
Living in a diverse community has both pros and cons literally. Diversity brings so many colors and cultures from every nation gather in one place to introduce to other ones and celebrate their custom maintained from ancients. I was born and raised in a mono ethnicity country, Vietnam, and the similarity in culture and behavior is normally operated and accepted. Therefore, diversity in culture and race around my community never existed around me, until the day I started to study abroad, which means I would step into a new world.
Before landing in Canada to study, I always thought I would get to know and learn the culture and people from the Western world, a place where full of white people, skyscrapers, foods that are not similar to my daily home meals, four seasons in a year which is the difference to where I was raised only two seasons year-round, and so much more. I would not think there would be only a little trace of Asian community occupied in a small number of a big city. A lot of thoughts ran through my head while I was on the plane to travel to a country halfway around the world from my hometown. When I stepped down to the airport, a crowd of mixed cultural people from around the world, black, Asian, Southeast Asia, European, South American, came together in one place. But I still thought nothing, basically just “Yeah, this is the airport. Many people from different ethnicities are normal. What should I be surprised about?”. I headed to my relatives’ home, rested and ready for a new journey of my life.
The first day of school was full of unfamiliarity, but still exciting for new things are in front of me. When I stepped into the school, I was shocked and surprised. A normal public high school in Canada comprised many races, similar to what I saw in the airport, LOL. A group of students spoke Filipino, a group spoke Chinese, Korean, Russian, and so much more that I cannot count. My old thought of a community surrounding me where people are all white Canadian was completely broken until this scene of diversity came to me, lesson number one: culture shock. Then, my days in school went pretty well, I met a lot of friendly people, some were really engaged to me and kind, some were helpful to my first time getting to know new and diverse things, and some are full of humor with their jokes. I enjoyed my school days a lot, seriously learning high school in Canada is extremely less pressure than in Vietnam, seriously. However, language is a first-hand problem for me in reading textbooks and communicating with people. Most of the students in my school were newcomers; hence, their English was not as fluent. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand what they say and lack of humor because of the language barrier. That was how I felt lonely and unconnected in a diverse community. It turns out that I really miss my time back in my hometown with my friends and family, and I even feel comfortable communicating with strangers.
Actually, I am confident with my second language as English. I was qualified for the highest level of ESL right after the placement test for enrolling in high school. I can communicate basic things with my teachers and classmates. However, the obstacles came with native slang and idioms that only native students regularly use on a daily basis, and that makes newcomers, international students like me, struggling and stuck while communicating with them. After a few years in Canada, I still feel like I belong to a diverse community. Many ethnicities make it difficult to find anyone who can tell jokes, share emotional things that happen to those with who you are close. It is not just about the language, but also culture in movies, films, fashion styles, lifestyles, foods, jokes that are different by each culture.
Even though this is not a culture that I grew up with, diversity still brings many things that I get to know. I know the characteristics of people from each country, how they look, behave, even the sound of their mother language also make me feel curious and used to it besides English. At least, I was given this opportunity to learn and experience the education system of a country far away from my hometown which has many differences in every aspect. I was able to meet friends from many parts of the world and learn many things from them. These would be valuable memories for me exploring the world outside opposite to what I thought before coming to Canada to study.