DA Identity Survey: How Unique Are We?

WordItOut-word-cloud-739629by Ed Alvarado

Identity is defined as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” In order to find out who the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna (DA) is, students filled out a survey that asked about their individual identities. Based on those statistics, the average DA student is a right-handed female who speaks two or three languages, has lived in two or three countries, has one younger sibling and is a Christian who doesn’t consider herself very religious. But it would not be wise to assume that most DA students fit this specific stereotype. Generalizations sacrifice each person’s individuality for the sake of representation and their attempt to describe a group might result in a description that few members of the group actually fit. Furthermore, group identities are imaginary constructs and it is hard to derive a common group identity from a community even as small as the Academy.

The Diplomatic Academy is composed of 211 students and 62.56 percent are women (132 women, 79 men). Out of 76 students who completed the survey, 64.47 percent of participants were women, which corresponds well with the population. Seventy-one percent of respondents speak two or three languages, and 15 students (20 percent) speak 4 or more. Twenty-six students (34 percent) said they had lived in three countries for 6 months or longer, 20 students (26 percent) lived in two countries, and 19 (25 percent) had lived in one country only. Furthermore, 35 students (46 percent) defined themselves as Christian (including Catholic, Protestant, etc). All of this means that statistically there truly is a majority of women, a majority of trilinguals, and a majority of Christians. However, only 9 out of the 76 respondents (11 percent) fit all three categories. The question “Do I consider myself very religious?” compelled respondents to create their own definition of what “very religious” means and whether they fit into that category. It is worth mentioning that 43 percent of respondents defined themselves as either Agnostic/Unaffiliated or Atheist which is almost equal in number to the Christian majority. Fifty-nine students (78 percent) said they do not consider themselves very religious. However, some students said that “others wouldn’t say that I’m very religious even though I really am.” These findings suggest that there is very little that can be said about how religious the members of DA community truly are. Moreover, the survey also shows that giving a simple “yes/no” answer to a simple question can vary depending on what is understood by “very religious.”

In terms of personality, the Graduate School Forum published by Foreign Affairs Magazine states that the DA hopes its students will share the qualities of integrity, openness, and intercultural awareness. Well, a survey question asked “What would you say that most/all of us at the DA have in common?” Twenty students mentioned the terms ‘world’ or ‘global,’ 18 mentioned ambition, and 12 students said ‘open-minded.’ Interestingly enough, when students described themselves individually, the most common words were: ambitious, curious, creative, smart, loyal, honest, and funny; meanwhile the things they value most in a friendship were usually loyalty, trust, honesty and humor. All of this suggests that the DA is reaching the type of students that it hopes for since the average DA student could be described as an ambitious and honest individual who is curious and open-minded about the world and values loyalty and trust.

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When asked where they want to live/work after graduating, student answers ranged from specific wishes like “16th arrondissement Paris” to vague exclusions like “a continent not named North America.” However, four students mentioned opposite ends of the planet, three students said “the world,” one person said they want to “move around non-stop” and another said “??” That means that 69.7 percent of respondents are open to the idea of living somewhere that is not where they were born, raised, or lived the longest, which are common definitions for “home”. It seems like the DA community is not attached to a location and believes that home is ultimately where you make it.

In terms of their families, 39 DA respondents (51 percent) have only one sibling, while ten individuals have no siblings. Moreover 73 percent are either the oldest or the youngest in their family. Psychological research suggests that someone who is a first-born child will often be described as: perfectionist, well-organized, serious, scholarly, self-critical, and bad at delegating. Conversely, a youngest child is often seen as a good salesperson, charming, innovative, show-off, and blaming others. Single children have a lot of similarities with first-borns, but their unique adjectives are: academically successful, self-confident, a loner, logical, afraid of disorder and less street smart. Middle children, which are only 9 percent of DA respondents, are described as mediators, independent, extremely loyal, relaxed and avoiding conflict. Perhaps DA students fit these stereotypes based on their respective birth orders, but once again statistics and generalizations may not always be appropriate.

Some of the other questions showed that the most common superpower that students would want is “Healing self/others from aging/disease/pain” (41 percent of students) and 48 students (63 percent) would sacrifice a very successful career instead of sacrificing free time with their significant other or family. However, it is interesting to note that in a hypothetical scenario, an equal 63 percent of students said that they would take their dream job even if it meant not seeing their significant other very often for five years. Are DA students ultimately career-oriented or family-oriented? Students seem to place a lot of value on both so it may be hard and unfair to make either of those generalizations.

So which generalization can legitimately explain who the DA is? The hardest thing about group identities is that more members bring more diversity, which means everyone has less in common. Those who responded to the survey show some common traits, but those who didn’t participate are also part of the DA. Their answers could make the results more diverse, which would make the group identity more complicated. Maybe the DA is just a community of individuals. When asked to rank five quotes, half of participants ranked the following as their favorite: “The most important rule in life is to treat others the way you would treat yourself.” Ideally, that means treating people as individuals instead of group members, so what’s the point of group identities?

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