U program lets int’l students share their cultures

Cati Vanden Breul

International students come to the University with more than just suitcases.

They also bring a breadth of insight about the world with them to the Twin Cities. #_Photo_32392_right

The Culture Corps program, sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services, is geared toward helping international students share their culture with the University community. Through the program, exchange students receive funding for projects that allow them to teach others on campus about their homelands.

Each year, Culture Corps reviews applications and offers funding to 19 to 30 students, said Thorunn Bjarnadottir, program coordinator.

“We’re definitely looking for something that wouldn’t be here without that student,” Bjarnadottir said.

Since its 1998 inception, about 250 students from at least 50 countries have done projects through the program, she said. Students typically receive $500 to $2,000 for their efforts.

Dentistry student Hanae Tsujimoto who comes from Japan offers Japanese ink painting lessons for her project.

On Friday, she taught fundamental brush techniques to a small class of students in Folwell Hall, showing them how to paint an orchid with black ink.

“I’ve always had a passion for art,” Tsujimoto said. “And I wanted an idea that was really unique to Asian-orientated culture.”

John Bergman, an Asian languages and literature junior, attended the lesson and said learning the art of Japanese ink painting is a unique way to learn about the culture.

“If you’re interested in Japanese culture, it’s almost a step back in time with a modern twist,” Bergman said.

Regional and urban planning graduate student Avigya Karki said he wants to use his project – a series of discussion groups about the ongoing civil war in Nepal – to raise awareness of the issue in the University community.

Karki, a native of Nepal, said the media doesn’t provide the whole story about the 10-year struggle between Maoist rebels and the government to the American audience.

“I’ll bring in people who have experienced and studied what’s going on in Nepal and give the real picture – what the news media doesn’t show,” Karki said.

Some international students, such as civil engineering graduate student Qiang Wang, aim to help American students with their studies.

Wang’s project pairs up Chinese students with University students learning the Chinese language.

“I hope to build a bridge to connect the American students who want to learn Chinese language and the Chinese students who are interested in improving their English skills,” Wang said.

Through Chinese movie nights, University students can learn about Chinese culture as well as practice the language, he said.

International students work with a faculty or staff mentor to learn how to make presentations interesting to an American audience, Bjarnadottir said.

“By the time they graduate, they’ll not only have gotten a degree, but they’ll have gotten immersed in the American way of doing things and of being,” she said.