Class of 2019 abounds with diversity
“I've always wanted Marist to be a community in which everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, political persuasion, etc. feels welcome.”-President Dennis Murray
In a recent email that circulated through campus, President Murray stated that last year many students of different colors and ethnicities did not feel as welcome here as they should have. In an effort to diversify campus, changes have been made since then to improve our college. “…This year, more than 20 percent of the student body identifies as people of color, and we currently have students from 44 countries,” Murray wrote.
I had a chance to witness firsthand some of this exciting diversity in the freshman class of 2019 when I met students who came from all over the United States, as well as other countries.
Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Nadir Yondu spent the past three years of high school in America. He chose Marist because, “It seemed like good job opportunities and internships were offered to the students, and it seemed like the overall population was nice. And it’s close to the city.” As an economics major and political science minor, the proximity to so many opportunities will definitely be of advantage to Yondu since he plans on staying in America to pursue a master’s degree in business administration after he graduates. “Long story short, I want to settle down in the States,” he says.
Yondu says that he does not get homesick, except of course, for the food. “In Turkey I usually eat meat 24/7. It has different spices and better flavor. And there are too many options. But in school I usually eat grilled food and it gets boring – already - after 3 weeks.”
Another interesting member of the Class of 2019 is Arkayeh Prange, who was born in Florida but has moved every two years since to various places including Oregon, Korea, Peru, Thailand, and finally Hawaii, where he spent the past two years. Of all of the schools he might have possibly chosen, Prange says he picked Marist because he enjoys traveling and seeing new places, and New York was on his list.
Prange is a political science major and a member of the swim team, and seems to have adjusted to Marist pretty easily. Still, he says there are quite a few differences between Hawaii and Poughkeepsie. “Everything in Hawaii is very relaxed, while its very fast paced in New York.”
“Language is one thing,” he adds. “There’s a lot of slang in Hawaii. It could be anything from small things that you guys call flip-flops, we call them slippers- people get really confused by that. We call the US the mainland, things like that. We also speak in a different rhythm, different kind of dialect. If you’re with your friends and you want to eat in the cafeteria, you can go up to them and say, ‘We go cafeteria now,’ which makes absolutely no sense here. They’ll just think you’re dumb. But it makes sense in Hawaii.”
Also leaving an island behind to come to Marist, Natasha Cacho is from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She chose Marist because she heard that one of her friends from high school was going here, and after visiting, she “loved the natural environment, the riverside and the hills. The welcoming way I immediately was received by the faculty and the Center for Multicultural Affairs persuaded me that this was the place for me.”
Despite the beautiful campus, Cacho says she does get homesick. “I miss having my own bathroom, room and food, but it's not so bad. My parents always encouraged me to do this and they are proud of me. I would say that is what has kept me here this whole time. I am also proud of myself and I have no reason to go back or to feel sad because I know that home is always in you and with the people you meet along the way, you make your own home.”
Though her friends were very sad to see her leave, Cacho says, “I'm happy I took the risk of doing something completely out of my comfort zone. It's the first time in my life I feel like I am on the right path, where I have taken time to value myself and my decisions.”
Certainly, there is a lot to be said for these students who have made the decision to come to Marist from so far away. As they experience Marist for the first time, they are in many ways no different from the rest of the freshman class, while at the same time they each bring something completely unique and different to the Marist community. They help to enrich the college with a wider range of cultures, something President Murray is very proud of.
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