Now, there certainly aren’t many places a college student can simply jet off to on a weekend getaway. And it’s not always easy to scrounge up the money to travel halfway across the world every year. But that doesn’t mean that college students can’t get an opportunity to experience other cultures.
I’m going to talk specifically about Ball State University as that’s where I go to school, but many universities have similar offices and programs to the ones that I will be talking about.
An easy way to experience other cultures is through food. Ball State’s very own Chef Jason creates food every week for students, and they are often international dishes. Students can join a Facebook page to see his weekly menus and photos of the dishes he creates. Every Wednesday a dish is inspired by a different country. This week one of his meals is Makher Taukari:
Wednesday, January 25 – Bangladesh Inspired Dish – Makher Taukari (Fish Curry) – Seasoned Cod Fish Sautéed with Green Chilies, Onions, & Tomatoes Served with Basmati Rice Topped with Fresh Cilantro
In the past he has made dishes inspired from India, Kuwait, Mexico, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and many more countries.
- Multicultural Center
Ball State funds a Multicultural Center, which “…offers programs and events which support and advance the university’s commitment to cultural diversity.”
We just ended Unity Week, which is a week filled with events and guest speakers that promote diversity and inclusivity. This is a great way for students to learn more about cultural diversity and important issues happening in our own country. This is what the schedule looked like:
As well, multicultural centers host many other events, like Trending Topics. This event happens every month and students, faculty and staff come together to have discussions about current, diverse topics happening around the world. This is an opportunity for college students to learn more about issues that marginalized groups are facing, often coordinating with the heritage each month is celebrating. For example, March is Women’s History Month, so the trending topic might be focused on issues women are currently facing.
Our Multicultural Center also hosts MOSAIC workshops. Peer advocate leaders team up with organizations and classes around campus to lead interactive workshops so students can learn more about social justice. The topics include activism, disability awareness, the role of men in our society, and many others. While these workshops do not directly correspond with what I immediately think about traveling, they are a great first step. When students are aware of current social, political and economic problems in different countries, they become knowledgeable travelers.
- The Amazing Taste
One of the best events the university hosts every year is The Amazing Taste. The entire Student Center is filled with fun activities and food from all around the world! There is music, dance, a global fashion show, henna tattoos, and even a study abroad fair for students who are interested in learning more about where they can study internationally. Each floor of the student center hosts a different part of the world. In the fall semester of 2016 there was food from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia. The cost for students is just one meal swipe, but the event is also open to members of the Muncie community for close to the same price.
This event gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves into other cultures by experiencing their food, music and history – which is exactly what I love about being in a new place. If you’ve never left the country this can give you some ideas on places you’ll want to visit, and even if you have traveled internationally this will expose you to places you haven’t been.
CLICK HERE for pictures from the Ball State website from the Amazing Taste from previous years.
And finally, for students who are living on campus, a great way to experience new cultures is to come to events hosted by your residence hall. Talk to your RA’s! If they know that you are interested in learning more about different places around the world they can host programs that will allow you to do so.
- Residence Halls
I am an RA and last semester I hosted a program with two of my coworkers called “Thanksgiving Around the World.” We cooked all of the food ourselves. We made Jewish Matzah balls, yams from Ghana, Korean beef barbecue, and fish from Finland. And for drinks we used sparkling grape juice, instead of wine, from Italy. Many students came and tried new food, and we all ate together to celebrate our differences. My coworkers and I played music and showed short documentaries during the dinner, and afterwards we discussed how some different cultures celebrate holidays similar to Thanksgiving. It was a huge success!
My coworkers and I also create bulletin boards that show international cultures. In December I had a board filled with international winter holiday traditions, and currently another RA has an interactive map. Students can place pins in countries they have been and countries they plan to go, and it provides study abroad information.
The bottom line is this: you don’t always have to go very far to immerse yourself in another culture. Sometimes, all it takes is a little creativity.