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Student Perspectives on Global Diversity Awareness

Pictured left to right: senior Margarita Demkina, senior Griffen Malkin, junior Alejandro Rincon, junior Pun Sangruji, senior Lily Tapsoba

In recognition of Global Diversity Awareness Month in October, Loomis Chaffee’s Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies asked five students with a range of backgrounds and experiences to share their perspectives as engaged global citizens who promote cultural understanding on the Island and beyond.

Read excerpts from the five student responses:

Senior Margarita Demkina from Moscow, Russia

Q. Why do you think it is important to gain a global understanding through travel or through interacting with peers from various backgrounds?

Perspective and growth. These are the two nouns that highlight the value of global education. …[F]rom interacting with new people from all over, whether at Loomis or through travel, we grow as individuals and develop a more open mindset.

Q. How do you embrace global diversity at Loomis?

This community, a home away from home, has meant a lot to me over the years, especially as a scared new underclassman. Now, I am introducing new students to campus as my mentors did, providing a familiar environment for Russian speakers and the Loomis community.

As an international student ambassador and an RA in Ammidon, I am working with people adjusting to an American boarding school lifestyle and seeing how they contribute to this community. I am constantly amazed by my peers, and I have never heard the same story twice. I’ve always loved meeting and getting to know new people, and Loomis’ diversity provides a great opportunity to do so. Just think how many more people can say that they have friends from Serbia, Lithuania, Hong Kong, China, Brazil, and fill-in-the-blank!

Q. What is your favorite place that you have visited?

This summer, my family and I spent a week on a boat in Croatia, drifting between islands in the Mediterranean.

Q. What is your favorite memory from this experience?

The trip has surpassed all my expectations for several reasons. For example, I have never tried sailing a yacht or figuring out how it works. … I have learned so much, from sailing jargon to tying different knots to setting the sail. The trip felt like a quest in the sea, and if not for this trip, I would not have an opportunity to learn so much. In addition, I found out that the Croatian language shares a lot of similarities with Russian.

Q. Is there a fun “global” fact about yourself?

My favorite Russian saying is, “Work is not a wolf, it won’t run away to the woods.” It means that the work won’t disappear anywhere, so don’t procrastinate. It’s a good motivator during the busy weeks on campus.

Senior Griffen Malkin from Bridgewater, Connecticut

Q. Why do you think it is important to gain a global understanding through travel or through interacting with peers from various backgrounds?

Both [experiences] expose you to different cultures, encourage you to think about your own identity, and expand your limits of comfort.

Q. How do you embrace global diversity at Loomis?

As an e-proctor (a student leader in Loomis’ sustainability programs) I participate in many initiatives that are inherently global in scope. Last Friday, the e-proctors led a group of 115 students to the Youth Climate Strike in Hartford. I also participated in two international travel programs organized by the Alvord Center: the Galapagos in 2018 and Iceland last June.

Q. What is your favorite place that you have visited?

Iceland

Q. What is your favorite memory from this experience?

I really enjoyed meeting the people … [and] learning about the different forms of renewable energy, such as geothermal, used there.

Q. Is there a fun “global” fact about yourself?

Japanese cuisine is my favorite — I really love sushi!

Junior Alejandro Ricon from Glastonbury, Connecticut

Q. Why do you think it is important to gain a global understanding through travel or through interacting with peers from various backgrounds?

International travel and interaction with people from diverse backgrounds have helped me become more well-rounded and have opened my mind to many places and cultures. I have a deeper appreciation for my own fortunate situation.

Q. How do you embrace global diversity at Loomis?

I am a part of a Latinx affinity group on campus called La’Pante where people with Latino or Hispanic background can meet and interact. I traveled to Cuba on an Alvord Center travel program. There, we learned about the nation’s recent history during the Cold War and rise of Fidel Castro from the Cuban perspective. As an LC Scholar, I visited Fiji and New Zealand last summer on a travel experience funded by Loomis Chaffee. It was a service-based trip, so I worked on an eco-farm, a kiwi preserve, and helped build a drainage/sewage system in Nativi, a Fijian mountain village.

Q. What is your favorite place that you have visited?

Fiji. Not only was the location gorgeous, but the people that hosted our group in the mountain village were incredible.

Q. What is your favorite memory from this experience?

My homestay parent was Jim — the kindest person I have ever met. He would stay up late into the night after we had worked all day mixing a laying cement to talk with us about life outside Nativi and tell us stories about his childhood. But the most memorable moment was the night before I left. Jim sat my roommate and me down on the chairs and said, “I’m sorry.” My roommate and I looked at each other and wondered what could he be apologizing for. He said, “I’m sorry for not being able to give you as good a bed as you have at home.” I was awestruck. The beds there were the most comfy things I had ever slept on, but that is beside the point. That sort of kindness and thoughtfulness is what everyone needs to practice and what I’m striving to be like.

Q. Is there a fun “global” fact about yourself?

A Maori native taught me the phrase “sweet as” which has two meanings. It can mean “hello” or can be said to acknowledge when someone says something cool. It’s now my favorite saying.

Junior Pun Sangruji from Bangkok, Thailand

Q. Why do you think it is important to gain a global understanding through travel or through interacting with peers from various backgrounds?

Travel allows us to foster connections between people across the globe and allows us to learn about their cultures and personal experiences. It helps us broaden our view of the world and build up cultural sensitivity, mutual trust, and respect of differences. And it’s fun.

Q. How do you embrace global diversity at Loomis?

I am an international student ambassador and an admissions tour guide on campus, so I get to meet new students from across the globe and help them settle into the school I’ve grown to love so much. I am also a member of the Thai Club, which allows me to share the culture I am so proud of with the rest of the school.

Q. What is your favorite place that you have visited?

Japan. I love their culture as it is so vibrant and filled with respect of others. Their food is also exquisite, something that I always am excited to find out about when experiencing new cultures.

Q. What is your favorite memory from this experience?

My favorite memory of my experiences in Japan is learning about their way of life and their work ethic. No matter how menial a job may seem, Japanese people always work to their fullest capabilities and consider it an honor to serve and work for their countries. I believe that is something that everyone can be inspired by.

Q. Is there a fun “global” fact about yourself?

Even though I enjoy visiting different places around the world, I actually hate traveling.  

Senior Lily Tapsoba from Accra, Ghana

Q. Why do you think it is important to gain a global understanding through travel or through interacting with peers from various backgrounds?

An individual point of view can be very one-sided, so by traveling or talking with peers from various cultures, we gain a new understanding of how others think and what they believe. My time at Loomis has shown me how complex global issues can be, and I have become a better global citizen by listening to others and their views.

Q. How do you embrace global diversity at Loomis?

As an international student ambassador, I help new international students with their transition to boarding school, and I also gain insight into their culture and their different perspectives. I take a course called College-Level Social Science: Globalization where we learn about how globalization affects the world and how this process affects everyone differently.

Q. What is your favorite place that you have visited?

I love Senegal. I traveled to Dakar in the summer of 2018 to do an internship, and I love everything about that city. The food was amazing, the people were so nice, and the country is beautiful.

Q. What is your favorite memory from this experience?

Every day after my internship, I would take a taxi to go back home; I would always pass by the Mosque of the Divinity, which is an old mosque overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. That scene just had something special about it. I can’t really explain it.

Q. Is there a fun “global” fact about yourself?

My favorite dish is injera, which is Ethiopian cuisine. Injera is a sort of flatbread, and you would usually eat it with some sort of stew or sauce. Amazing (if done right).

Global Diversity is a theme that will be explored at three community discussions organized by the Norton Family Center for the Common Good in collaboration with the Alvord Center this month. All student travel opportunities organized through the Alvord Center this school year will be unveiled during Family Weekend October 25–27. Connect to the Loomis Chaffee website for more information about the center’s programming.