'A multicultural environment is overwhelming sometimes'
One of the most brilliant things about Utrecht and the Netherlands is the diversity. People from all around the world come to meet in this country and bring their cultures with them. I am really enjoying studying at a university with so many different cultures, learning something new every day not only from my friends and classmates, but other students online as well. There is just one downside to a multicultural society, however: it can be a bit overwhelming.
I come from an Eastern European country where people are mostly shy and introverted. Coming here, I was expecting something totally different, and I got it. Studying in Utrecht proposed to me a challenge – to get out of my shell and comfort zone. I noticed that people in the Netherlands are much more open than in my part of the world and it scared me a bit at first. How do I react to certain situations? What is okay to do and say, and what is not? When do I come off as introverted and when do I come off as cold? These are things I am learning as I go.
At first, it was very overwhelming to be in a room full of people, each having their own mannerisms and ways of talking, and sometimes even talking multiple languages at once. Everyone is trying to fit in and do their best in teaching others about their country, so what can we do to make ourselves more comfortable and open to new experiences and knowledge?
In my experience, the best way to get used to a multicultural society is to fully let go. I will be honest, though: some things were hard to accept at first. Every culture is different and so is every person from a specific culture or country. I had to accept that some things are not okay in my culture but are okay in other cultures and vice versa, but that is the fun part: learning together. After I let go of my own insecurities, I saw how incredibly rewarding it can be to learn about each culture and the history behind it.
These past few months, I have been very lucky to meet people from countries all over the world and form many friendships. With those friendships also comes insight, the true kind of insight about a country and not the information that is fed to us by the media. I am learning about foods, traditions, music and so much more. Learning to love all cultures and be willing to submerge myself in them. Some situations still feel challenging sometimes, such as being the only one that doesn’t speak a certain language, but I am slowly learning to accept our differences and focus on the parts that unite us.
We all live in the same city and we are mostly in the same stage of life, just trying to enjoy it to the fullest. It is also okay to sometimes feel like it's all too much, but I will keep trying to do my best, working towards a well-functioning multicultural society, where everyone feels safe to be themselves.