Navigating a Multicultural Environment

Sep 27 2018

One of the most valuable things you will experience at NYU Shanghai is a truly diverse and eclectic blend of cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. Half of the student body is made up of international students from every corner of the globe, and the other half is made up of Chinese students from all over the country, creating a wonderful assortment of culture.

The beauty of this multicultural cocktail is that it permeates your worldview without you completely realizing it. Before you know it, you and everyone around you, meet at a sort of global middle ground of mutual understanding and consideration.

You become increasingly aware of the overlapping similarities between yourself and those around you, and the differences become subtle flavors that add nuance and dynamism to your perspective. Here are some tips to thrive in this multicultural environment.

Bring with you to China an open mind. With this you will learn, experience, and enjoy more than you ever imagined you could. You will encounter people from all walks of life; being open to understanding the differences in cultures will go a long way in helping you adapt and thrive.

When you arrive, you might find a group of people with a similar cultural background or country of origin as you. As a result, you might find yourself spending all your social time with them. Don’t! Make an effort to enjoy activities with people from places that are a complete mystery to you. You stand to learn a lot and make long lasting friendships by doing this.

During your time here, you will group up with people as roommates, school project mates, club and society mates, etc. You will discover that we all have particular methods of going about things. If you find yourself in disagreement or offended by the methods of your friends or colleagues, don’t resort to judgment and inflexibility. Try your best to understand the reasoning behind a colleague’s actions and if you can’t, sit down and have a chat. Communication is key! One of the greatest assets you will acquire in a multicultural environment is the ability to entertain and gracefully challenge different points of view.

If you find yourself confused or frustrated with a friend or classmate but feel you can’t approach them, consult a someone that might have a better understanding of their culture. Have a respectful conversation about whatever issues or conflicts you may be facing, you might find that they can offer you a window into a culture that you may have never considered otherwise. The golden rule is “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” I know some really wise dude said that somewhere. Again, communication is key!

Denzel Tafadzwa Goredema is a junior and an economics major from Zimbabwe. He has grown to make Shanghai his home away from home. Having never used chopsticks before coming to China, today he would pass up a fork and knife in a heartbeat for a pair! It should therefore come as no surprise that his favorite thing about Shanghai is the food. He chose economics as his major to hopefully play a significant role in liberating Zimbabweans from the grasp of poverty and setting the nation as a whole back on the path to economic self-sustainability.