Queen’s community must unite to encourage confidence in personal cultural identity

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Families house cultural roots, passed on from parents to children for generations. Moving away from home can make it difficult to continue these traditions and to preserve one’s personal cultural identity.

Think of it this way: coming to Queen’s, your new community will differ from what you’re used to. After the initial culture shock, it’s natural to mimic the accepted behaviours around you.

When you return home, you may feel a disconnect with the culture you grew up with. Time away at school might replace some of your family’s loved customs with other new routines.

But you shouldn’t feel guilty for being pressured to “forget” your culture.

Assimilation can become a defense mechanism that echoes the surrounding community’s prejudices. Students can feel pressured to filter their culture, hiding aspects that are misunderstood or not accepted by others.

Because of the 2020-21 remote learning year, many first- and second-year students will be arriving on Queen’s campus this fall for the first time. Finding the fragile balance between fitting in and preserving their identities will be a concern for everyone.

It isn’t going to be an easy process, either—too often, both safety and comfort are compromised.

In a space where home often doesn’t support social culture, while society rarely supports household cultures, the perseverance of personal cultural identity must come from within the person.

While Queen’s is far from perfect, there are many ways to maintain connections with different cultures on campus.

Finding a student group that practices the same customs you’ve grown up with can be beneficial—both as a connection to home and as a reminder of what made home special. At the same time, there are many opportunities to branch out and learn new things while finding your place in the Queen’s community.

The antidote for an environment that encourages assimilation is respect and acceptance—not just tolerance of other cultures, but a desire to learn about them and understand them.

Respectful questions may help others feel safe and accepted. Not everyone will be willing teachers of their culture, though. Respecting personal boundaries is key.

Whatever aspect of your culture you resonate with—be that religious, spiritual, or other—embrace it. Remember the reason why you’re preserving your connection to your culture.

It’s okay if that reason differs from others’. You’re establishing your own comfort and your own home away from home. Remind yourself that the first day in residence doesn’t necessarily promise meaningful connections—building a comfortable group may take time.

A freely diverse community doesn’t happen overnight. But if everyone accepts both their own culture and the cultures of others, we can build towards an atmosphere where everyone on campus can feel safe.

—Journal Editorial Board

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