Valuable Cultural Experiences

Photo Courtesy of Alex Dabrowska

Tech is fortunate to have such vibrant diversity and students get to have many experiences that showcase this. Several on-campus initiatives, such as the student and faculty symposia, cultural events such as India Club’s annual Holi Show, and abundant opportunities for studying and working abroad have motivated students to engage themselves not only in the Tech world, but also the beauty around it.

Several students define their greatest cultural experience as one that they had when they studied or worked abroad. Monica Schaefer, a third-year IE, spoke about her experience at GT Lorraine.

“GT Lorraine was completely amazing,” Shaefer said. “I learned a lot in my classes, but I learned a lot more from being in Europe…we had weekends off to travel, so I was able to see a lot of Europe…It was important for me to gain that kind of cultural awareness, especially in today’s world.”

Jerry Fa, a fifth-year ME, agreed with Shaefer.

“I was part of the Pacific Spring Study Abroad Program,” Fa said. “I spent a lot of time in Australia…originally, I didn’t know whether I wold learn as much about culture as I would have if I spent time somewhere like Germany or Japan…but it turns out even a country [that speaks English] has a totally different culture. That was fascinating.”

Alex Dabrowska, a fourth-year EIA major, went to Cusco, Peru on a study abroad during the summer of 2012. She found the experience culturally enlightening both in getting to know a foreign culture that she was never exposed to before, and also in learning more about her own culture from a comparative standpoint through the way it was viewed by the people she met.

“Our trip through Lake Titicaca was a transition for me. We started in the port city of Puno, which was large and kind of what I was used to living in Chicago, but when we traveled farther into the lake there was a cultural change as we came across native peoples who had been flourishing there and adapting for hundreds of years,” Dabrowska said.

Studying abroad is not, however, the only way that Tech students have international experiences. It can be as simple as going to an event on campus, or even, as first-year Business Major Jennifer Huang explained, speaking to friends.

“One of my best friends is an international student from Israel. He tells me about how school and other everyday things were for him back home, and it blows my mind,” Huang said. “Just having him around is an awesome cultural experience for me.”

Shaefer also said that speaking to students around campus is a great way to learn about various cultures.

“It’s always great speaking to someone with a completely different perspective from you. A lot of my friends are from places that I had never even heard of before…I learn a lot from them, and that’s really valuable,” Shaefer said.

Several students, like second-year Ayush Patel, also said that the constant cultural events around campus provide a very international feeling when just walking around Tech. Patel commented on the many things that he learned while at Israel Fest.

“Just in a few minutes, I was able to learn everything from Israel’s top model to its top schools,” Patel said. “There is always something like this going on around campus, and it’s honestly pretty great…I mean, there was a camel.”

Cultural exhibitions such as Holi Show are also very popular with students who are looking to learn about various parts of the world.

“One of the recent events that I went to was Holi Show,” Shaefer said. “It was pretty cool listening to Indian music and watching traditional Indian dance mixed with hip-hop…I also learned about Indian culture from the skits, which had jokes in Hindi.”

“I’m Indian, but I still took a lot away from going to Holi Show, Patel said. “I learned about a lot of new music that I need to check out…so there’s no way to say that you have had too much exposure, even to your own culture.”