Here at Exeter Summer, diversity abounds, and can be considered the heart of the experience. Yet, some students have never met people that differ drastically from them, whether by sexuality, ethnicity, or religion. Students from various places in the world were asked if they had stereotypes about a certain group of people before they arrived to here and whether, after the met the people, those stereotypes changed. Here are their responses:
“Yes, and yes, the stereotypes were for gay people because we don’t have a lot of gay people in Saudi [Arabia],” said Abdulrahman Alayli from Lebanon. ”I thought they wouldn’t be open and kind and nice and everything, but I’ve realized that they’re still people.”
Jacinda Duesbury from New York, had another preconception. “The stereotypes I had when coming here was that I thought people that weren’t on scholarship would be more academically advanced than me, but that wasn’t the case,” she said. “Everyone seems to have the same level of intelligence in Exeter. I’m just glad to be able to surround myself with people who are smart and like me.”
But Naomi Jones from New York said, “I had the stereotype that there would be a lot of over privileged white people here” she said. “That stereotype was not proved to be wrong.”
Sheridan Figueroa from New York said: “I thought a lot of women in the Middle East were oppressed, there would be a lot of richer people and people would be divided in their similar cultural groups. From here I’ve learned so much truth about the world. The Saudi women are free to do as they please and aren’t controlled by men. There are many people in similar financial situations like [me]; and people are very accepting when you put yourself out there, I thought the groups would be segregated and some were but once I got the courage to say something to them, people from everywhere were welcoming me with open arms and asking me about my life.”
Yet, not all students had developed stereotypes about certain people because they are used to diversity. “I didn’t,” said Otis Maberry from Chicago. “I come from a racially and religiously diverse school, and I was expecting to be in the same environment here. I’ve always been told growing up not to judge anyone before you meet them, so I’ve had an open mind to other cultures while I’ve been here. The only major difference is the language barriers that I have with some students, but I have fun with it.”
Lauren Carson from Memphis agreed. “I didn’t have any stereotypes in my mind because I came in with an opened mind so I didn’t want to think about the bad things and I didn’t want people to stereotype me,” she said.
Others admitted to preconceptions. “I come from a very diverse area,” stated Said Hallie from Raleigh, North Carolina, who received The Unit Scholarship Fund. ” But, I was expecting rich people to be more upitty towards scholarship kids, like oh you’re poor kind of thing.” Hallie also added: “I am learning a lot about other cultures, but they’re upper class people. So they’re experiences aren’t typical for everyone.”
A student from China enthusiastically said: “to be honest, I thought all the Chinese people came from China. But many came from different places such as California!”
Olivia Salvage from New York said: “I didn’t have any specific idea about people. Because I used to go to an international school. But when I came here I learned about different cultures from the perspective of people that are my age. But I feel like I understand cultures more”
A notion most students at Exeter can agree on is that that the diversity at Phillips Exeter Academy is exceptionally enriching. In a world where media sets stereotypical barriers between different cultures, being in Exeter breaks these barriers and bridges the gap between foreigner and local.
Being introduced to entirely new perspectives is a valuable experience that we will all cherish forever and will surely never forget.