Expo bridges cultural divides with dialogue

International Students showcased souvenirs, traditional clothing, books and instruments from their native countries at the International Expo Weekend Sunday, Jan. 27 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Nathan Marsh Pusey Room.

The event included a discussion where students discussed “fake” and cultural barriers that they felt the domestic students and international students had between each other.

Lawrence International president and junior Vicky Jhong Chung was in charge of planning the event with help from the LI Board. The planning of the Expo Weekend began at the beginning of the term.

“We wanted to bring something that connects the rest of the students with the international students,” said Jhong Chung.

Nearly 25 cultural pieces contributed by students were displayed in the gallery outside of the Pusey Room. Items included a decorated Greek plate from Esangelos Karalzas ‘01, a Bulgarian doll in traditional dress from George Ganchev ’98, and an Ethiopian flute from junior Wintana Belai.

The conversation that took place at the event included students who studied abroad, international students and domestic students. Junior Chelsea Gans, junior Elodie Jegu and Jhong Chung sat in the front of the room to ask questions and lead the discussion.

“The moment that we started talking about home and how different we feel there was definitely a connection. [We had] domestic students talking about how they feel about the international community, how they felt about when they were abroad or how they felt when they met an international student,” remarked Jhong Chung.

Students in the discussion talked about relationship differences, culture shock when coming home, challenges of speaking a new language, understanding humor, personal boundaries and differences with greeting friends and acquaintances.

Many commented on the familiarity of kissing friends hello and goodbye, not looking and smiling at others when passing them and the oddity of asking “How are you?” without expecting a response.

“It was interesting to see how the culture shock that I have experienced, the very minor things, like smiling and greeting people, and the small phrases people say like ‘Let’s hang out soon’ wasn’t just in my experience, that other people from other cultures went through the same thing,” said freshman Razan Anabtawi.

Freshman Shang Li was glad that students who studied abroad were included in the event. Li noticed that foreign students typically felt much more comfortable around her when they learned that she was born in China.

“People tend to start talking to me when they realize that I’m foreign. People from Italy or Spain or New Zealand, they start talking about their experience to me even though I didn’t ask,” said Li.

Sophomore Claire Fox attended the event and shared her perspectives as a domestic student. She commented, “It was really great hearing the experiences of international students in America compared to my own experience and that we can all come together and talk about it.”

Jhong Chung was very satisfied with the outcome of the Expo Weekend considering that it was the first one to take place at Lawrence.

“Next year we want to make this bigger so we can work with more offices on campus and invite more people. I think this was small, but still the outcome was really good,” said Jhong Chung.