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This I Believe: I Believe In Getting a Taste of Diverse Cultures

Aurelie Granito - Hillsboro High School
Beatrice Bonner
NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
Aurelie Granito - Hillsboro High School

The aromas of Filipino, Turkish and Indonesian cuisines float through the house; an amazing group of eight exchange students ‑‑ who I only got the privilege of bonding with for seven short days ‑‑ are cooking and teaching their favorite dishes. The thick Turkish coffee brewed next to the rich simmering Filipino Chicken adobo crashes against the aromatic Indonesian fried rice, proving cultures can intertwine with little to no effort. Opening my mind to new cultures and experiences can be stressful, especially coming from a small, rural town with little to no cultural diversity. The eight wonderful exchange students with whom I have the privilege of bonding opened up my eyes and taste buds to the melting pot of the world.

Through the YES Program, founded after 9/11 to improve the relationships between Muslim countries and the United States, students from all over the world visit and study in America. Who knew this experience would also provide me with eight new lifelong friends? I still remember the anxiety bubbling up in my stomach when I was waiting to meet Nadya and the thoughts racing through my mind. “What if she isn’t who she said she was?” “What if this was a bad idea?” These “what if” questions were quickly proven wrong when I got to know Nadya, my Indonesian sister. Her bubbly laughter filled the room with positive energy, rubbing off on everyone else. Mizgin, my Turkish sister, never fails to be eager to learn about American culture and shared her culture with me. While standing at the stove, Mizgin showed me how to brew thick Turkish coffee and fill the kitchen with its sweet aroma. I stood over the pot full of Turkish coffee grounds and simmering water, carefully skimming the froth off the top to serve in little tea cups, to follow our delicious multicultural dinner. On the other side of the stove is Indonesian fried rice, flavorful and sizzling. Nadya taught me how to cook this delicious dish in a scorching wok erupting in steam. Despite our differences, many of which were cultural and religious, I learned to look past what makes us different and learn from them. Cooking is an amazing way to share culture with others so, when learning various dishes and drinks from the students, I was also able to absorb more Filipino, Indonesian and Turkish cultures. Because I was encouraged to open my mouth, I truly gained opened eyes, an open mind, and an open heart and discovered we are all more alike than we realize. I believe in getting a taste of the melting pot of cultures to further understand the world and those who inhabit it, to see what unites us instead of the obvious division. Thank you to my eight wonderful new friends: Nadya, Mizgin, Anya, Mabeth, Ed, Rizki, Aldryan and Eren who helped me open my eyes and taste buds up to cultures from around the world; I wouldn't want it any other way.

This I Believe Illinois is NPR Illinois' annual essay program for Illinois high school seniors. An expression of where their minds are as they prepare to enter the adult world. This I Believe was started by radio journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1951 to allow anyone able to distil the guiding principles by which they lived. Special thank you to our sponsors: The Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, State Journal-Register, BLH Computers, KEB, and Marine Bank.

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