Office of Multicultural Affairs discusses culture shock in forum

Erty Seidel

Tuesday, Jan. 26 marked this
year’s third Identity Forum, a
series of discussions about topics,
issues and concerns for the
Lawrence community about multiculturalism
and diversity. Fourteen
audience members made for a
responsive audience as the six
panelists talked about their experiences
with culture shock, the topic
of Tuesday’s forum.
“It’s important to continue
to educate, connect and continue
channeling diversity on our campus,”
said Pa Lee Moua, assistant
dean of students for multicultural
affairs and organizer of the
Identity Forum.
Moua continued, “The Identity
Forum serves many purposes to
help break down barriers, create
social interaction, and build
a more inclusive and welcoming
atmosphere.”
The panel was comprised
of Ranga Wimalasuriya from Sri
Lanka, Kyu-po Pyun from South
Korea, Aimen Khan from Pakistan,
Slavena Molle from Bulgaria, Kofi
Fosu from Michigan and Ghana,
and John Jones from the Bronx,
New York and Rose Wasielewski,
diversity center programs coordinator.
“There’s actually not much of a
culture shock,” said Molle, starting
off the forum. “Of course there are
differences, but mainly in the little
things.”
Jones had a different outlook,
saying, “My greatest culture shock
came from moving to the Midwest.
[My travels in] Europe, South
America, those were okay. Here
was just. wow, I didn’t know you
could fry cheese.”
The questions mainly revolved
around differences in cultures
and international perceptions of
America. Most of the panelists said
that they had completely different
ideas of America before their first
travels here.
“My friends and I thought that
it was all New York, and all the
girls looked like Jessica Alba. So all
my friends were jealous that I was
going to this land of Jessica Alba,”
said Pyun.
Khan added, “Views of America
in Pakistan are very different from
what America actually is […] It’s
not just this huge army invading
Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Most of the panelists felt that
the misconceptions went both
ways, however.
“Some people have this idea
in their head that Africa must be
completely different,” said Fosu,
“but I was surprised how much it
was like America.”
Molle added, “The good thing
about studying abroad is that you
learn a lot about your own culture
as well as your host culture.”
Jones summed up, saying,
“One thing is that we’re all trying
to figure out where we’re going in
life. Everyone just wants to find
what it is that makes them happy.”
The next Identity Forum will
be held Feb. 23, and will deal with
the topic of “Race: the Face of
Diversity.

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