Diversity 101 In Apartment 114

October 13, 2003

Baylor often is stereotyped as being a University where white, upper-middle class Baptist students wear designer clothes and drive new cars. Students are seen as privileged, naïve and even closeminded.
After attending Baylor for 2 1/2 years, I have to say that although I certainly can understand that point of view, it is not entirely justified or accurate. The University encourages diversity in culture, language and religion through its many student organizations and activities.
My freshman year, however, I didn't think Baylor was diverse at all. I had a white roommate whose parents were Southern Baptists, and the religious conversations I had with the women in my hall were only about Christianity, mostly about Baptist beliefs. As a Mexican, I felt somewhat outnumbered, and I feared all Baylor students shared the same opinions and beliefs as my hallmates.
I was wrong. My opinion changed last summer when I moved into an apartment with three new roommates. While 25.2 percent of Baylor's students are minorities, 100 percent of the people in my apartment are. Amber Bello is Cuban, Aneesa Hojat is Iranian, Andrea Gonzalez is Chilean and I am Mexican. 
Although this is only our first year as roommates, we all are amused with the diversity in our apartment. On any given night, Aneesa may be in the kitchen cooking Persian food, Amber will be on the phone speaking Spanish to her abuela and Andrea might be telling us about her most recent trip to Chile.
Living with all minorities has opened the door to conversations we never had with our former roommates. Our religious beliefs range from Catholicism to utter skepticism. I have learned about other religious practices, and we often discuss the accuracy of religious texts. I have learned more about Islam than I ever could have in a class, and now I am able to talk about issues that some Baylor students weren't willing to discuss with me before. I have concluded that, more often than not, asking questions about religion leads to more questions. These open-minded religious discussions have given me the chance to see the world as others see it.
Since moving to my apartment, I have learned about the Persian New Year and Cuba's government. I have explained Cinco de Mayo, el Dia de los Muertos and what ingredients make the best chilequiles. The four of us have discovered a lot about each others' cultures, everything from national holidays to traditional meals.
As we have shared about these differences, it surprises me to learn that basically we have been raised the same way. All four of us have parents who are from more traditional cultures than what is often experienced in American society today. All of us were raised with a father who has the dominant hand and a mother who is the resourceful and caring wife, maid and cook all at once. The roommates I had before were raised with more modern customs, where both parents have equal say. It is comforting to live with friends who understand why I just can't yell back at my parents. With American parents encouraging their children's independence nowadays, I find solace in knowing others whose traditional parents just can't let go. 
Seeing another perspective is a fundamental aspect of a college education, and although I initially doubted Baylor could provide such diversity, I clearly was wrong. Since I've been here, a world of religious ideas and cultural beliefs has been offered to me. I realize diversity at a university is important, not only to be able to see the world through someone else's eyes, but also to be able to find people who are just like you. It has made me appreciate the differences in people, as well as the similarities.

Arguelles is a junior journalism major and a student intern at Baylor Magazine. Her paternal grandmother lives in Comales in Tamaulipas, Mexico.