UT students reflect cultural diversity

Khadija Saifullah

On April 11, Texas Traditions presented the Texas Revue, the largest and most diverse student-run talent show held on campus. This annual student tradition showcases a variety of acts from a conglomeration of hip-hop and violin by Shreyas Panda, to the blending of traditional Bhangra and modern hip-hop by Punjabbawockeez. Two Indian dance teams (Nritya Sangam and Dirty South Dandiya) took home the awards of best overall and most technical, respectively, at this entertaining cross-cultural extravaganza on campus.  

Texas Revue has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my college career so far. This being my first UT-wide performance event, I, like many others, was exposed to cultural dances and performances that I had never seen before. It made me reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity. 

Interestingly, “culture” was the most popular word of the year in Merriam Webster’s dictionary in 2014. In addition to serving as a catch-all term for the beliefs, art and customs that differentiate one society from the next, “culture” can also mean work ethic and company values. For instance, in a Forbes article, an interviewed CEO said that “calling people back the same day” was part of his culture — so he monitors this behavior because, to him, good customer service is of paramount importance.

I believe that exposure to new cultures is an integral part of the UT experience. Not only does it prepare us to pursue our future aspirations, but it enables us to understand the world better and learn from people who come from different walks of life. 

We live in a country that is often referred to as a melting pot. Many of our nationalities are hyphenated. As a Pakistani American, I am forever bound to two entirely different countries and cultures. 

In many Western societies, we might be tempted to assume that being bilingual is an unusual phenomenon. However, according to “A Parent and Teacher’s Guide to Bilingualism” written by Colin Baker, 75 percent of the world’s population may be bilingual to some degree. That’s more than 4 billion people who appreciate the difference in people’s background and history. 

Growing up in a bilingual home, my parents alternated between speaking in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, and English. I hesitate when answering questionnaires that ask me what my first language is because there is not one answer. 

The reason for my hesitation is that I believe it is important for me to know my origins, diverse as they may be. If not, I feel I have failed to consider the beginning of my story, and I fear I will find myself yearning for something I have forgotten. 

As French novelist Marcel Proust put it, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Proust realized that by working with other people from diverse cultural backgrounds, we begin to explore new ideas and prospects. 

This past Saturday was about appreciation. The talent show brought the enjoyment of performance, but more importantly, it empowered a campus celebration of our own diversity.

Saifullah is a neuroscience sophomore from Richardson. Follow Saifullah on Twitter @coolstorysunao.