The first two winning essay from Michigan State’s “I Have A Dream” contest, by Zakiya Suleiman and Lana Zuck, were featured earlier. Now, we present he essays from Sara Hughes and Tiffany Khoury. Enjoy!
It’s a Tuesday, you’ve just completed studying for, and taking an extremely difficult calculus exam. Limits and derivatives – not the easiest concepts but you’re a Spartan so you persevered. You’re feeling confident about the test you just took, but then you realize you have a more pressing issue at hand. As you walk out of Wells Hall, you hear a low rumble. “Is it Saturday?” you think to yourself, “Am I missing a football game?” It dawns on you – that’s definitely no football game! You glance at your watch – 1:14 pm. You’ve got just enough time. You sprint away from Wells Hall and follow the Red Cedar at a super human speed. No time to admire the rolling river or extra friendly squirrels today! You’re on a mission. You pass Spartan Stadium, the Library, the bronze-cast replica Spartan Statue, Jenison Fieldhouse, the Kellogg Center, and finally, at last, you cross Harrison Road. Victory is so close; you can smell it. “The Final Countdown” plays in your head as you burst through the doors and climb those final 33 stairs. You reach the top and pause for a moment to take it all in. You’ve done it. You’ve made it to Brody Dining Hall before the end of lunch.
To get in to Brody Dining Hall, you first must swipe your ID card. Then, you must grab a tray- a convenient tool to help you carry all of your dishes and utensils. Finally, you get the chance to embark on one of the most unique dining experiences of all time. You can choose from stir-fry to hamburgers, to Thanksgiving dinner or sushi, to pasta or tacos, and about anything you can think of in between. And the best part is, you can have a bit of everything!
Every meal begins with items from the same food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Those food groups are the basics or the fundamentals to every dish. These basics are very versatile, and when you mix them together, fine cuisine is born. Brody Dining Hall begins every meal with items from the exact same food groups. It’s the different measurements, mixtures, spices, and cooking techniques that make each dish unique. For example, a chef can use protein, vegetables, and grain to produce a quesadilla, whereas another chef can use the same ingredients to create a delectable stir-fry. These are two completely different dishes with completely different tastes, and yet they both started with the exact same ingredients.
Your Brody dining experience is not over yet. You may find yourself questioning where certain foods come from, including from what culture “naan” bread emerges. You may find yourself speaking with the dining hall staff and chefs to create a personal one-of-a-kind experience for your Spartan self or to learn more about the meals at hand. You may find yourself doubting if you can really eat all of the food on your tray as you stare at the two chicken sandwiches, bowl of cereal, plate of pasta, three tacos, and vegetarian pot stickers. When dining with friends, you may discover a new dish or combination you’d like to try, and come to realize it’s your new favorite food. And somehow, at the end of your meal, however stuffed you may be, you will find yourself in the dessert line because you’ve definitely earned it by finishing your vegetables! You will walk out of Brody Dining Hall feeling stuffed, fulfilled, satisfied, and ready to tackle the rest of your day.
You have just experienced Michigan State University. Walking into Brody Hall, you swiped your ID card. This is your ticket, or your admissions to the greatest university on Earth. Your tray represents your time here at MSU. No two people eat the same meal, just like no two people will have the same memories or experiences. Your tray is full of the tools and skills that you have hand-picked and personalized with the help of the faculty, staff, and your peers. No matter where we come from, Wells or Akers Halls, Lansing or China, we all walk into Brody Dining Hall with the same hunger for lunch, just as we all arrived to Michigan State with the same undying hunger to begin our futures.
Every student begins with the same food groups that Michigan State has provided us to be successful during our time here. The five main food groups represent our institutional learning goals, which when combined and used effectively can create well rounded individuals (and nutritionally balanced meals). We are able to find our passions (favorite foods) and take advantage of the opportunities (food stations) that will take us one step closer to our dreams (the perfect meal). We can pick and choose different dishes from different stations and personalize each to create a unique meal we can call our own. Our different perspectives, insights, and experiences (spices, mixtures, and cooking techniques) are what shape us and make our journeys one-of-a-kind. Along the way we will experiment and discover things we never realized were missing. New foods may make us uncomfortable, just as the culture shock of college may make us weary at first, but we must always remember that the college experience includes stepping outside of our comfort zones. The further we push ourselves to our limits, the more we will continue to grow!
At the end of our meal, as we digest our newfound appreciation for diverse people and foods, and as we look at all of the experiences and opportunities we’ve been given, we will all eventually make our march across the graduation stage (to the dessert counter). We will finish our dining experience with the skills that our university has helped us develop. Those questions we asked like: where were the foods grown, from what cultures did they come, and do we have too much food on our plates, helped us develop skills like integrative reasoning, analytical thinking, and cultural understanding. If we are willing to work hard (and finish our vegetables), we will emerge from Michigan State University fulfilled and satisfied, ready to leave our Spartan footprints on the world.
Recently, I had arguably the greatest and most humbling experience thus far of my time here at Michigan State University. I was fortunate enough to participate in an Alternative Spring Break with a group of nine other Spartans in order to learn about various aspects of the social issue of immigration. Before the trip, we were all strangers who knew nothing about each other besides the fact that we are all Spartans who wanted to give back; but after about one day of travelling across the country together, we were all talking and laughing like we had been friends for years. Soon enough we were inseparable, and not just because we were on the other side of the country with no one else to turn to. We were having the time of our lives with a group of people who were complete strangers a mere seventy two hours ago.
About the third day in we met some locals on a hike who were intrigued when they saw our “Michigan State” apparel and were even more fascinated by the idea of the Alternative Spring Break Program. As we were chatting with them, they asked us what religion we were, assuming this was a church sponsored program. We proceeded to tell them that this was a university run program with no religious affiliation, and at that moment we all simultaneously realized we had not the slightest clue what our individual faiths were. The ten of us had spent countless hours together over the past three days discussing everything under the sun, but not once had our religious preferences surfaced.
Later that evening we had our nightly reflection time when we discussed the day in depth, the new experiences we each had, and how these impacted us. Not surprisingly the religion inquiry came up. In discussing this, we also realized that we did not know each other’s ethnicity besides the assumptions that met the eye. We came to find out the ten of us comprised an extremely diverse group. The amazing phenomenon was that the certain individual characteristics, such as religious preference and ethnicity did not matter at all. All that mattered is that we were all Spartans who respected each and every one of our individual opinions and perspectives.
Personally, I am from a small town in Mid-Michigan and before attending Michigan State University, I was not exposed to much diversity at all. I remember hearing numerous racist comments; because I had grown up hearing them, they did not even faze me. I would be lying if I said that I do not possess any intolerant views or stereotypes of any particular group of people. However, each and every day I find many of these opinions being tested. Once I came to college, I met people from all over the planet and I quickly learned that not one of us is better than anyone else; we are all people chasing our dreams. Now when I go home, I find myself cringing at some of the racist comments I hear, even those made by my own family and friends. After the multitude of wonderful experiences I have had here at MSU, I now find myself calling people out on their intolerance. While participating in my alternative spring break trip, I realized how much my perspectives had changed and how much I had grown since being away at college. Instead of juding a person I meet for the first time based on his/her ethnicity or religion, these characteristics are oddly among the last things I inquire about. I was truly proud of my other group members and myself for having such an accepting attitude towards others.
With that being said, making generalizations about others is a human instinct. Not one person is entirely innocent of never judging another human being or stereotyping a group of people. It is something that we all do and that will not change any time soon; but if people are aware of how wrong they can be about another person when they stereotype and label, the world would be a much friendlier place. I sincerely hope that everyone has a chance to experience what I did. The fact that I grew up in a profoundly intolerant environment has played a significant role in shaping the person I am today. Those views were all I knew and thus they were never questioned until I arrived at Michigan State University. Everything I once believed was tested, and I quickly realized that many of my beliefs were blatantly wrong. I am proud that I kept an open mind through my transition to college, because my experiences have honestly been life changing. The people I have met, the things I have done, and the places I have travelled, would have never been a reality if I were to have kept a closed mind.