The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Paridhi Kapadia '23 RGLP Reflection

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For the past eight years, I have lived in Miramar, FL, which is one city in the suburban conglomerate of the greater Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach area. There has been a long history of immigration from South and Central America, and thus South Florida has a large population of Latinx people. Since I moved to South Florida, I have grown up with Latinx friends and in a largely Spanish speaking community. Although technically only 26.5% of the population in Broward County, my county, is Latinx, it has always felt like most everyone speaks or at least understands Spanish. Latinx is a broad term and encompasses a number of nationalities and cultures, and I grew up hearing about different cultural traditions from my friends at school, my Spanish teachers, and honestly most everyone I interacted with. Throughout high school, I felt like I was learning a good deal about the cultures and the languages around me through my classes, but I was taken out of my comfort zone several times since then. In junior year, over the summer, I went to a Dominican restaurant with my parents late one Saturday night. We thought we were just going to a quiet restaurant in the center of town, but we had happened upon a bustling social scene. Kids younger than me and my age were walking around the plaza with their friends, conversing in Spanish. Adults congregated in groups in the restaurants, drinking coffee and catching up with each other in Spanish. I had lived in this town for five years and wasn't even aware of this social component. When we went up to order, I tried my best to order in Spanish, but I was overwhelmed by the menu and the activity in the background. I stumbled over my words and didn’t order the right things. I didn't understand what she was saying, and I was sure I had annoyed her. Once we sat down, I took a deep breath and recentered. I realized that of course my language skills were not up to par after only a couple classes, and that I was still learning. I looked around and watched with curious eyes to learn as much as I could about how the social space worked. I later took the time to research Dominican social culture and ask some of my friends their experiences, and I learned an important lesson about being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Written by Paridhi Kapadia, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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