On a recent Friday, my husband and I went to a party I wish everyone could have attended.
The location — the International Cultural Center at LSU — wasn’t fancy. The decorations were OK, although I’m not really sure there were any — there were too many people to tell. And the food, donated by a local Kiwanis Club, wasn’t gourmet. There was live music, thanks to some musicians who played Cajun tunes.
Despite the unremarkable setting, the air was filled with an energy, vibrancy and excitement that would rival any soiree. The partygoers were young adults from around the world who recently arrived in the U.S. and were about to embark on the adventure of continuing their educations at LSU.
The LSU-affiliated International Hospitality Foundation hosted the event to welcome new international students to campus.
Among the new arrivals, I met a young couple and their toddler from Buenos Aires; the husband was here to study law. One student from Honduras is enrolled to get a graduate degree in soil science. Several young men from Nigeria are here to study mechanical engineering. A couple from Indonesia are here for engineering degrees. A woman drove to Louisiana from Vancouver because she discovered the courses taught at LSU in school psychology are reputed to be some of the best in the country.
Students from India and Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Japan, China, France, the United Kingdom — just some of the countries represented — crowded the room.
It was truly a mingling of nations, a place where hope and endless possibilities filled the air.
Many of these students plan to study for a doctorate degree. Some will return home. Others will seek jobs here, enriching our industries and universities, as well as the cultures of the communities where they end up living.
I wish people who want to shut the doors to foreigners could have been there, because when you meet people and spend time talking to them, sharing ideas, sharing food, you realize barriers are false, and we all have the same hopes and ambitions.
You realize how enriched our lives become by meeting and developing friendships with people from other cultures.
Just imagine how bland our world would be if Italians hadn’t settled here … no pizza? Or a world without Chinese buffets or Indian spices, Mexican tacos, Vietnamese pho or ramen noodles? How dull and bland a world would it be if there was just one type of bird or one type of flower or one color of humans?
On a recent trip to South Africa, my husband and I visited the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, where some of the earliest bones of our ancient ancestors were discovered. Beneath our skin color, our country of origin, our language, our culture, our religion, we all have the same genetic make-up. We are all alike but have evolved into a wonderful, fabulous array of colors, languages, cultures and religions with such diversity, such originality that together we reflect the most glorious aspects of creation.
And that glorious aspect was present in the bright and best way at that welcome party on a recent Friday night.
— Bell lives in Baton Rouge