6 continents, 20 nationalities and 60 students

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The English B students in 12th grade wrote about their personal experiences in an international community as SIS. This article was written by William, who wrote about how it has been an "eye-opening" experience for him so far.

20 nationalities and 6 continents are represented in my grade of 60 people. We have people from all the corners of the world. Together we create a welcoming, tolerant and creative environment where everyone is welcomed, regardless of ethnicity, religion or skin color. However, this makes it even more important to treat each other with dignity and respect and not to take anything for granted.

When you spend most of your day in such a multicultural environment as this school offers, you start to realise that we aren’t as different as we might think, even though we come from very different places. Personally, before I started the school, I had some prejudices about how people from certain places were going be. I believed all Americans were loud and arrogant and Chinese people were brainiacs solving math problems during breaks and so on. However, I have recognised that there is such a great variability between individuals with the same ethnic background, that it becomes almost impossible to categorise their behavior accordingly to their ethnicity.

A profound advantage of living in a culturally diverse community is the insight I get into different countries and cultures, including countries I almost hadn’t thought about before. When I say insight I mean more than just what you can find on Wikipedia, I mean actual local knowledge. I now know the subtle differences between boroughs in the South-Korean capital Seoul and I probably know more about Angolan history than a qualified history teacher.

We are often distrustful, scared and skeptical of the foreign and unknown, but once we actually get exposed to it we realise that there is nothing to be scared of and we end up changing our beliefs. I once had a classmate from Georgia who frequently would express his abhorrence towards against Russians, something he had developed in connection with the war in 2008. However, one day a Russian kid started in our class. Everybody was worried about how they would get along with each other. After some argumentations, they eventually became best friends.

The moral of the story is that exposure to other cultures often works as an eye-opener. It illustrates the importance of tolerance and how pointless it is to not treat everybody with respect.