This blog supports the United States Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs June theme of Diversity and Inclusion.
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Vernā Myers
Diversity is a way of life for most Americans. Diversity is so intrinsic to our culture, we tend to forget that it’s not the norm for other countries and cultures, many of which are far more homogenous. A fresh perspective from a South Korean intern, brings new perspective and appreciation for a foundational element of our country. Because when it comes to diversity and inclusion, many of our global neighbors are in awe.
Changmin Kang, is a recent college graduate from South Korea, living and working in the United States on a J-1 intern visa. When we asked him his thoughts about diversity and inclusion, and how these themes have emerged in his experience, he was happy to share his thoughts. Changmin explains that in his intern position, he works with people from several different countries – Thailand, Philippines, South Africa, Mexico and others. He now understands that diversity is characteristic of the U.S., something he didn’t fully understand until he experienced it firsthand.
“I think the big difference in the U.S. is the people, the character, and the culture,” he observes. “Everyone has been so nice to me.” Changmin says that his manager, who is from Thailand, and he often share stories about their different cultures, what they like, dislike, and what is different. He feels that the United States is much more diverse than his country. In his South Korean university most students were Asian, so Changmin didn’t have the same exposure to people from different cultures.
“In the U.S. I can meet people from South America, Thailand, Africa, Europe, and Mexico. I can’t see them in my country.”
Changmin has enjoyed every aspect of cultural diversity including the different cuisines that he has enjoyed while living and working in the United States. But the most enriching aspect of the experience for him, apart from applying his education into a business environment, has been what he has learned by virtue of being a part of a diverse workplace, community, and country.
Changmin feels the interaction with diverse people has expanded his horizons and changed his character. The opportunities and new perspective have also motivated him professionally and personally. While he felt awkward at times about his English speaking skills, he encourages anyone participating in a cultural exchange program to be confident, and to try to learn as much as they can from the cultural diversity.
What other advice does Changmin offer? “Travel a lot and meet new people from different cultures. You learn a lot from travel and from people from different countries.” Changmin says he loves his temporary home in Austin, Texas, and is motivated to learn other languages, particularly Spanish, which is often spoken locally.
Changmin agrees that the power is not only in the diversity of people, but in communities, companies, cultures, and countries that are inclusive of them.
It appears that Changmin has discovered a great deal about himself and others by virtue of the diversity that surrounds him, and the culture that welcomes and embraces his talents and contributions as a unique individual.