“Can we touch your hair?” my classmates giggled. I stared at them, stupefied. “You are like a Barbie,” they added. I came to the University of Hong Kong thinking I’d be one of many adventurous European students. I’d spent months snowed under in Estonia, my home country, dreaming of hot Hong Kong and a new group of friends from all over. Having studied in an international school, I had it all figured out. Nothing’s easier than making international friends. Love of the same exotic dish is enough of a uniting force to create friendships that last a lifetime. Yet, two months into the academic year, classmates were still asking to touch my Barbie hair. Clearly, HKU wasn’t as diverse as I’d been led to believe. HKU staff and student associations demand answers over unfilled deputy position Diversity – it’s what all institutions want to be known for, the epitome of inclusiveness and tolerance that yields innovation and progress. I know all about “diversity”. I hate it. It has nothing to do with how inclusive an institution is. Diversity won’t be the end of racism, sexism or ableism. Because for most establishments it’s just a game of “how many people of different race, age, size and ability can we shove into one promotional brochure?” They are creating an illusion; it is not diversity, it is tokenism. And I was that token. “We’d appreciate it if you could participate in our open-day, Teele. The media might be there,” they’d say, or “Could you join the marketing photo shoot? We’re sending out brochures to international schools.” But HKU is far from diverse. It caters to about 17,000 undergraduates yet I was the only full-time European student in the class of 2021, across all faculties. There were one, maybe two, full-time Europeans each year. I composed less than 0.0059 per cent of HKU’s demographic make-up. Looking at the university’s advertising material, you’d think I accounted for 20 per cent. This creates the illusion of an all-embracing student body and overlooks the problems students face regarding inclusiveness and tolerance. Walking by any international school here is like walking onto the set of a Baby Gap ad. So why isn’t that reflected in other institutions? Where does Hong Kong lose these kids? The answer is that they attend universities elsewhere. They leave Hong Kong, not because the universities here are bad, but because they want their slice of American Pie . Hong Kong high-school students will continue to leave until local universities identify more as liberal arts institutions. Think fewer anti-democracy lectures by Chinese academics and more Vagina Monologues . A year later I still get called in when HKU needs its token blonde. Though they have recruited a few more Europeans, the idea of diversity here is as delusional as ever. At least nobody’s touched my hair in a while. The Barbie doll got old. Now, I’m their pet gweipo .