A benefit of having a large community of international students at Clark University – where 14 percent of undergraduates come from outside the United States – is their ability to share their cultures and perspectives with others, both on campus and off.
Just ask the high school students and parents who attended the recent International Night at Worcester’s Notre Dame Academy (NDA). They received a round-the-world “tour” of culture and history from seven Clark Global Scholars, recognized as some of the university’s most academically outstanding students.
With the approximately 50 audience members divided into small groups, the Global Scholars presented PowerPoint presentations about their homelands, with details ranging from population statistics and exports to landscapes and lists of well-known residents.
Maia Nikoladze ’19, from the republic of Georgia, discussed what life was like for her fellow citizens before and after they broke from the Soviet Union. Her home country is not only a sought-after tourist destination, she said, it is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.
After Nikoladze spoke about her country’s conflicts with Russia in the early 1990s, she pointed to a picture of Vladimir Putin, and said, “So maybe now you know why I hate this guy. Russia is actually a big problem for us.” When she came to the United States, she said, she avoided anything Russian. Now, “one of the amazing things about Clark is that one of my best friends is actually Russian!”
Nikoladze lauded Clark’s campus culture, and said that political science professors “always try to make you try to understand the other side of the story.”
See more photos of the event on Clark University’s Flickr album.
The students asked the audience members to fill out Post-It notes to share what they knew about the Clark students’ home countries. Diana Argiles Castillo ’18 was surprised that attendees knew quite a bit about Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, Saadman Islam ’19 told stories of Bengal tigers, teas and elaborate weddings back home in Bangladesh and impressed the crowd with pictures of the South Asian country’s long, sandy beaches and of Dhaka, a city filled with rickshaws. Islam said his country is home to many clothing factories, and described the clothes produced there. “They might be cheap, but they are great,” Islam said.
Before coming to Clark from Ghana, Ayebea Larbi-Tieku ’20 said she had misconceptions about the United States.
“My mind was polluted by the many movies I watched as a child,” Larbi-Tieku said. “I thought many, if not all Americans, were rich with mansions and the most expensive cars, and the entire country was extremely clean.”
Coming from Romania, Teodor Nicola-Antoniu ’19 said it brought him joy to see that his country’s most renowned gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, “has many fans across the ocean.” He used his presentation to dispel myths about Romania, noting that it’s not dangerous, it’s not full of vampires, and that Transylvania does, indeed, exist.
Zabrina Motwani ’17 talked about the current political situation in Ecuador, something she said is not covered in the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the media’s portrayal of college life in the U.S. led Motwani to have misconceptions about studying here.
“College is definitely not a party all day,” she said. “I did experience some culture shock as well, but with time, this place became my second home.”
This was the first time Clark has participated in Notre Dame’s International Night, an event organized by the school’s Global Perspective Studies enrichment program, designed to help students prepare for their role in the global community.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for the Clark students to share their insights and perspectives with local high school students from Worcester,” said Patty Doherty, director of the university’s International Students and Scholars Office, and “an enriching experience” for both groups.
Paris McWilliam, a junior at Notre Dame, enjoyed the presentations. “The speakers were very friendly, open and enthusiastic about sharing their culture and their passions,” she said.