Customs week was a heavy experience to say the least. It was the first time that I came back to Haverford’s campus following summer break, which for usually involves a lot of family time, reading and thinking. Coming back after a long break and being hit with so many familiar faces at once was somewhat overwhelming. Being around freshmen also gave the campus a new vibe, shifting dynamics around like clockwork. I felt my place at Haverford had changed, with new responsibilities and priorities because I knew that I would have a strong impact on my customs group during the upcoming school year, as both a PAF and a model of a Haverford student.
I felt this responsibility even more so through the training that PAF’s and customs folk received concerning diversity and religion. I believe that my cultural background is unique to the college, as a Muslim American who grew up in a ridiculously diverse area of Brooklyn and who’s parents are both from Pakistan. During a PAF training on diversity, I remember talking about my experiences in public school, which immersed me in a mix of Eastern European, Latino, East Asian and South Asian students. I think that because of my upbringing, the perspective that I have to add is meaningful and influential to the conversations that I will have with both my customs group and the Haverford community as a whole. I think that after this intense week of attending programs and meeting faculty for training on the topic of multiculturalism, I’ve learned that I have a responsibility to voice my perspective towards a collective narrative of diversity.
Taha Ahsin, ’14 – Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF)
Diversity and related taboo issues have always captured my interest, and at Multicultural Leadership Institute we dug into these topics every day as whole group of 30 freshmen and also in smaller groups with a Student Resource Person (SRP) leader. We had about 3 workshops per day, and our topics included Socioeconomic Class, Privilege, Race, Gender & Sexuality, Spirituality & Religion, and Leadership. As we delved into these heavy topics, we really got to know one another on a concrete and fundamental level within only a few days—something I had not experienced with previous classmates I had known for years. It was freeing to be able to speak honestly with each other, without the fear of becoming an outcast or being labeled in a negative way.
My favorite workshop was the Spirituality and Religion Workshop. There were students who had grown up in one denomination or religion but had switched to another, those that were unsure about the religion that they had grown up with, and those who had followed the same religion their entire lives. As this was one of our final workshops, we had gotten to know each other well beforehand and were comfortable enough to go around the circle and share a statement about our religious background. Even being in a room of friends, sharing my Christian identity was still scary. However, openly discussing our faiths ended up being an empowering experience. I am less afraid of rejection. I know that if I discuss my faith with people who are close minded or rude, I won’t take derogatory comments as personally now because their intolerance is their problem, not mine. With this confidence, I can continue to love those who reject and belittle my beliefs without feeling insecure.
—Alexis Etzkorn ’15