Diverse learning and working environments enable people to see beyond their own social, cultural and religious backgrounds and to understand others’. It also exposes them to new perspectives which become a catalyst in altering mindsets and broadening people’s understanding of the world.

The inclusive student admission processes at colleges and universities in U.S., for instance, has facilitated a flourish of multi-cultural and diverse communities. Thanks to Mount Holyoke College, today I have friends in many corners of the world. Living in an environment where we can all celebrate happy moments and mourn sad ones, has brought my friends and I closer than ever. During the last few years especially, we have learned that in order to live in harmony, we have to understand and accept one another. In doing so, we have seen beyond our differences and more into our similarities. We dance to Bollywood beats, dress up for Eid and say Happy New Year more than five times during an academic year.

Before going to U.S., topping school based education was my main focus. Now however I understand the value of life-long learning whose instructors are the people with whom one lives with and the environment which one lives in. What we learn in classrooms may take us a few steps closer to our professional careers and future goals but we learn from each other becomes the mere foundation of who we choose to be as a human being.

Millennials everywhere are undoubtedly more tolerant and informed than the generations before them. Their beliefs and attitudes however depend much more on the environments they are brought up and educated in than in their generational ties. Millennials in U.S. are different than the millennials in Afghanistan. In U.S. millennials have rights and agency. They can protest and petition for a change. In Afghanistan where tolerance does not exist, even a slight hint of commitment to equality and inclusiveness can get people harmed and killed. Restriction, censorship and an overarching expectation to be like the older generations and to respect the traditional values, blankets all areas of youths’ lives in Afghanistan.

Those who have seen the beauty of living with people of different backgrounds understand that memorizing an historical event, knowing a piece of poetry or learning about a prominent figure does not measure up to understanding why some individuals choose to cover up. Or why certain musics sound good to certain people. Or why one prays to a Buddha while the other prostrates to a God whom she has not seen or spoken with.

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