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Cross-cultural experience brings students together

February 09, 2016 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Exploring other cultures and building relationships with peers was among the highlights for University of Pikeville students attending the Indianapolis International Festival.

The trip itinerary featured a parade of nations, cultural presentations, a naturalization ceremony and cuisine from across the globe. Visits to Thai, Greek and Indian restaurants were on the menu, along with a shopping trip to an international market.

Attending the festival was an eclectic mix of students from religion and biology classes, along with several of UPIKE’s international students.

“An expedition is a great excuse to meet new folks. Opportunity for dialogue, shared experiences and food are important culture bridges,” said Diann Whittier, global education coordinator. “It is important to have projects geared toward socialization and inclusion of our international students in various campus and experiential learning activities on and off campus.”

During the festival, the group experienced traditions from around the globe, some of which had been studied in their “World’s Great Living Religions” course taught by Sumer Bingham, assistant professor of religion.

“Students watched dances from the Middle East, learned about traditional dress from a variety of countries, tried foods from all over the world and looked at Buddhist art. It was a very enriching experience,” said Bingham. “Actively talking to people from different cultures helped them develop a deeper understanding of religious practices and beliefs.”

“I’ve never seen so many people from different cultural backgrounds coexist in harmony in one place. It was amazing,” said Daniel Si, an MBA student from Yanji City, China.

For biology students, many who were enrolled in a “Sustainable Living in a Modern World,” course, the weekend was an extension of their classwork, which had focused on food, nutrition and the food industry.

“The biology department has recently been focusing on building community among students via use of high-impact, non-cognitive teaching practices,” said Darla French, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology. “Experiences like this one are key, allowing students to accomplish tasks in groups away from campus in non-traditional settings, which promotes bonding between students and has positive impacts on the community.”

“This was a very unique and exceptional opportunity and experience,” said Zachary Combs, a biology major from Campton, Ky. “It gave rise to an understanding of many new and old cultures.”

During a trip to Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati, Ohio, students were challenged to purchase, and share, the “weirdest or coolest” item they could find, delicacies that included dried crickets and candy made from durian, a tropical fruit from Southeast Asia.


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