Participants in the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program come to the United States prepared to teach local communities about their home countries. They are also excited to learn about the various cultures of the United States. But what surprises many students is a third outcome, the opportunity to learn more about their fellow participants’ home countries. International Education Week (IEW) is celebrated every November and is a great way for students to share aspects of their home cultures with local communities and each other. In this post Martha Ampadu, a student from Ghana who is studying construction management, describes this year’s IEW at Pierce College, the enlightening questions asked by community members and what she learned from her colleagues. And look for part two of Martha’s post next week!
Over 100 people attended the International Fair at Pierce College during International Education Week. This fair was a presentation by all sixteen NWCCI international students from all over the world who are on a scholarship sponsored by the US Department of State. These sixteen students who are from Indonesia, Cote d’Ivoire, Pakistan, Colombia, South Africa, India, Turkey and Ghana, mounted up their plank cards with cultural pictures which spoke for themselves.
With our colleagues from Pakistan there was an educative presentation where they helped clear doubts which were on the minds the audience concerning the threatening terrorism group known as ISIS with relation to the Islamic religion, a religion which forms the basis of the Pakistani culture. From their presentation they made it clear that Islam means peace and not terrorism. But ISIS are hiding under the Islamic religion to execute their evil ambition, however, Pakistan is collaborating with the US to pull the ISIS strongholds. At the end of their educative presentation on the ISIS there was a sigh of relief from everyone present and a smile of hope that very soon there will be an end to the horrible nightmare of ISIS.
Our friends from India gave a powerful presentation too and with critical observation from the several audience, they figured out that, on the board of our Indian and Pakistani friends they had almost the same food exhibited on their boards, this made the audience come out with a brilliant questions such as, “How come you have similar foods exhibited on your board and that of the Pakistani board?” From this brilliant question from the audience, erupted a presentation through which we learnt that Pakistan and India were one country till the early 1960’s when they broke away due to religious differences. The Indian students said was the reason why Pakistanis and Indians have almost the same food, spices and most importantly have a similar language.*
From their presentation we learnt that India has several religions with the Hindu religion having over 200 gods with each gods having a specific role for which it is worshiped for. For example the gods by name, Maa Saraswari is said to be the gods of academic prosperity thus the gods of education to whom students of the Hindu religion go to pray to during their final examination.
With our friend from South Africa, we had an educative and informative cultural presentation where she explained the traditional apparel she was wearing. This was what her apparel looked like, a hand woven flare skirt which was down to her knees, a fitted sleeveless blouse with a concave moflar which she tied around her neck which sloped down her back and covered her arms, then a colorful beaded head band which she worked around her forehead.
She explained to the audience that the skirt is down to her knees and the molar is up to her back and covers her arms because, in South Africa and in her culture a woman is not supposed to expose her thighs, since it is believed that a woman should cover herself. The beads that she hung around her forehead are given to a woman by her beloved, as a means of proposing marriage to her, and to also keep potential suitors away from the woman, these beads are to show that the woman is betrothed.
She explained that the colors that the beads are also a message in themselves. She said “The beads are made of several colors to show that the marriage you are about to enter into is made up of different phases and it is circular around the head to show that when you enter into it there no exit, meaning as soon as you step into the marriage there should be nothing like divorce, and it is tied around the head to show if there is any marital problem after the marriage, the head should be use in solving it.”
This section of her presentation raised questions such as, “does this mean there is no divorce in your tribe?” But she explained, “Now due to the cross breed of present culture and education, now women speak up and stand up for their rights even within the marriage, thereby resulting in divorce, but traditionally divorce is not part of their culture.”
To be continued…
*[Editor’s note: According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Urdu is closely related to Hindi, a language that originated and developed in the Indian subcontinent. They share the same Indic base and are so similar in phonology and grammar that they appear to be one language. In terms of lexicon, however, they have borrowed extensively from different sources—Urdu from Arabic and Persian, Hindi from Sanskrit—so they are usually treated as independent languages.”]
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.