Just by taking a glance at the students that pass you in the halls every day, or are sitting down eating lunch in the Bear’s Den, its obvious that University of Maine students come from a variety of backgrounds. Some students hail from across town, or across the state, or even across the entire country. They all come to the University of Maine for the same reason: attending Maine’s flagship university and being a proud Black Bear gives them the resources and experiences they need to succeed in life.
For those who come from further abroad, however, they get to participate in all of the dynamic things about UMaine and they get to share their diverse culture in the meantime. This is a part of campus life that has become steadily more important in recent years.
The university boasts a staggering 476 international students, of which 222 are pursuing graduate studies. On top of that, there are ten multicultural organizations, including the International Student Association, African Student Association and Black Student Union. All of them bring people together from all areas of the world to participate in and organize activities right here on campus.
These diverse organizations organize regular coffee hours and celebrations of international holidays and dance festivals — they even participate in Culturefest every October, which is arguably the largest multicultural concentration of students at UMaine every year. All of this speaks incredibly well of the spirited campus life that cannot be matched anywhere else in the state.
To stress just how diverse our university actually is, it’s important to highlight those significant examples which explain just how far people have come from to attend UMaine, proximity or otherwise.
In October of 2015, while attending Culturefest for a story I was working on, I spoke with a girl who was sharing her culture with everyone who came to visit her table. She was from the Republic of Kosovo, which is a partially recognized state in Southeastern Europe that seceded from Serbia in 2008.
The reason why it is a partially recognized state is because not all countries of the world recognize it as a state. Currently, 115 countries have made diplomatic recognitions for Kosovo, according to the Republic of Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The girl talked about some of the cultural aspects of Kosovo and the many languages that people speak there, such as Albanian, Bosnian, Serbian and Turkish. She also alluded to how not many people know where it is, or have ever heard of it before, including myself. These facts explain two things; first, how much the university values international students even from places many people have never heard of — and second, how a region as small as Kosovo, which has an area around 4,200 square miles, can be so ethnically diverse.
We take part in that life every day here on campus. We live, work and learn in such a high concentration of ethnically diverse people, much of which is not seen anywhere else outside college campus’ in the state of Maine. From the perspective of someone who was born and raised in central Maine, this is an incredibly welcome experience because I have gotten to learn about different culture and meet people from all over the world. My only regret is not getting to meet more people who bring their traditions with them every fall.
My advice: do not take these multicultural connections lightly. You never know how valuable they might be to you one day.