Friday, February 28, 2020
Shreya Vijay '19, psychology graduate

"In Our Own Voices" is a photo and story gallery celebrating diversity and the voices that make the UNH Manchester community a wonderful place to live, learn and grow. Their stories are our story—and we are proud to tell it. Shreya Vijay '19, a psychology graduate, shares her story below.

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Picture an incredibly shy girl sitting at a middle school lunch table. She slowly takes her lunch box out of her backpack and can immediately detect the smell of aromatic Indian spices.

"I have come to appreciate my beautiful cultural background, and I’ve found that simple conversations lead others to appreciate it as well."

She wonders if everyone else at the table can, too. She scans the table to see if her friends are watching, then cautiously takes out the rice dish her mother prepared for her. As usual, she hears “What’s that smell?” She quickly shoves the box back in her bag and stands in line to grab cafeteria pizza.

Growing up as an Indian American, I never felt that being different was something to be celebrated, so I hid behind my quiet demeanor and tried to be like everyone else. I was too embarrassed to eat the food I craved, wear the clothes I loved, and listen to the music I felt connected to.

But I have come to appreciate my beautiful cultural background, and I’ve found that simple conversations lead others to appreciate it as well. This is the reason that bringing cultural competency to UNH Manchester was so important to me. Giving students the opportunity to share their stories in a safe and welcoming environment not only allows them to reflect on their own experiences, but also teaches others about the many cultures that exist in our society. That girl in the cafeteria deserves to be heard, because her story is as unique as she is.

Photographer: 
David Vogt | Freelance Photographer