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International Education Week Takes SMC Around the World

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Sam(left), 19, tested students by asking them to show him where Hong Kong is on the globe during Santa Monica College International Day at SMC in Santa Monica, Calif on Tuesday, November 15,2016.  (Brian Quiroz)

 

Students from around the world filled the quad on Tuesday to represent their respective countries. With just under 3,500 international students, SMC has students from more than 100 different countries. As flags covered the green of the quad and music from a variety of countries was played, the atmosphere was energetic.

Anna Eyfer, the Inter-Club Council Communications Officer, explained the importance of International Day at SMC.

“Today is all about education and learning,” said Eyfer. “Also, getting a new perspective from other students, and not necessarily just listening to what is posted on social media.”

At each booth, students discussed interesting facts about their hometowns, described the cultures of their countries, shared personal stories about their lives, and offered snacks traditional to their nation for everyone to try.

 

Lauren Hightower, Vice-president of the German Austrian Swiss Club, discussed Germany and the snacks they brought.

“We are talking about the special events and traditions that Germany has, talking about the language and where you can learn it,” said Hightower. “We are offering little packages of gummy bears, which are a German thing, and a chocolate called 'Ritter Sport.'”

Hightower studied in Germany for seven months and wants to move there after finishing her schoolwork at SMC.

Matteo D’amico was representing Italy with a group of his friends, who were all dressed up like people from the Mafia.

“I am from Pescara, a small town in the middle of Italy close to Rome, Dario is from Napoli, which is south, and Andrea is from Milano, which is north,” said D’amico. “International Day is important because - especially for international students - when you start living in another country you start realizing a lot more things about your own culture and country that you didn’t realize before."

D’amico expressed concern that a lot of people don’t really know what Italy has offered and does offer to the world.

“We are giving out flyers with information about Italy,” said D’amico. “For example, a lot of people don’t realize that Italy only represents about zero point two percent of all the world but has around 75 percent of all the world’s cultural heritage. It’s the country with the biggest biodiversity in the world."

Natan Benchimol, 23, President of the Students Supporting Israel club, discussed why he came out to International Day and what activities his booth set up.

“Israel has a lot of media bias against it,” said Benchimol. “We would see [negative] things in the news that misrepresented Israel and we wanted to start a club that shows Israel in the positive light that we see it."

Yousef Alsaad, 21, was representing Saudi Arabia. He also feels that there is too much misinformation and prejudice towards his country, so hoped to change the views of students at the event.

“Not many people know about Saudia Arabia," said Alsaad. "A guy asked me, ‘Is Dubai in Saudi Arabia?’ So that’s something in the media that people don’t know. They think Dubai is the whole Middle East however Dubai is only a city in the UAE and Saudi Arabia is adjacent to that country. I would love it if people knew about my country and in more depth," said Alsaad.

Alsaad brought food for students to try.

“I have some dates, they eat it before they drink coffee, and I have some Arabian chocolate too. And I have coffee, which is made from my mother’s hand, the pouch she brought from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Clara Valadares, President of Brasa Club, wanted to break stereotypes about Brazilian people and offer traditional snacks.

 

Santa Monica College student, Natan Dahan, helps promote the Students Support Israel organization (SSI) during the International Day celebration on the Santa Monica College Quad on Tuesday Nov. 15, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)

                                                                                                                                   Photo by: Marisa Vasquez

“We want to show that we are not just what people think. How we are, what we look like physically, what we like to do. We are very diverse. We are not just brown-skinned people. We have Asians, white, black all over Brazil. We are not only about soccer and samba. We have much more," said Valadares. "Today we are explaining the history and geography. We are offering two Brazilian candies. One is made of nuts called Pacoquinha and the other is mint chocolate called Bis,” said Valadares.

Chi Yuen Sham, 19, was representing Hong Kong and wanted to inform students about its history.

“Many people don’t seem to know that before 1977, we were part of the U.K. and after, we were part of China,” said Sham. “We changed to different passports, a different law system, and a different government.”

Kristen Wannemo, 22, representing Sweden, summed up the event and said, "It’s just like a nice way to bring a piece of home here, and weekly meetings like this can help through hard times, and we can also have fun, like Crayfish parties. It’s about having a family away from home here."

Students Get a Taste of International Cuisine

Jennifer Chan prepares pineapple cakes for the Taiwan table during the International Day celebration on the Santa Monica College Quad on Tuesday Nov. 15, 2016. (Marisa Vasquez)

By Christina Kelley

 

From Japan to Denmark, Saudi Arabia to Spain. There are 195 countries around the globe. Some people dream of visiting every one, but it doesn’t always take a passport and a Travelocity itinerary to get to experience their culture and cuisine.

More than 3,000 international students can be found on campus at SMC, and on Tuesday, many of them were happy to discuss their home countries, their culture and food during International Week festivities on the quad at SMC.

“This is my first International Day, and my first semester,” said Malik Ogunlade, a nursing major. “It’s nice to see all the different nationalities and to see everyone have so much pride form where they’re from,” said Ogunlade.

Ogunlade was one of the students who took the Israeli Chocolate Taste Test being held by the students of the Zionist Organization of America. “They had you taste a regular Kit-Kat and then Israeli chocolate and you had to tell which one was which and the Israeli one was really good. Way better than the Kit-Kat,” said Ogunlade.

Over at the chocolate taste-test table things were kind of hectic.

“We had some other chocolates before, but we ran out,” said Natan Benchimol, president of the club. Benchimol turned an almost empty box of milk chocolate upside down onto a white paper picnic plate and watched as a shower of bottom-of-the-box shavings and disintegrating brown slivers tumbled out. He put the plate on the club’s table where it was immediately descended upon by some students passing by.

A few small squares of Israeli white chocolate remained available to taste. It was creamy with a buttery mouth-feel, a hint of vanilla and a lingering richness that embraced the palate.

“It has a better process, better ingredients. I think it’s healthier too." said Daniel Dayan, a member of the club.

Just down the winding path students from Hong Kong gathered and offered snacks of the region. Chi Yuen Sham, a business major at SMC, offered authentic snacks. “This one tastes like chocolate,” said Sham as he raised a glistening, opened package of chocolate flavored baked rice and offered a sample of the treat. Its flavor was similar to a crunchy doughnut, though not nearly as sweet as those deep-fried American treats.

Super Rice Sticks were also on the table. “This one is very famous in Hong Kong—but it’s from Japan,” said Sham. The rice stick easily broke apart into bite-sizes but didn't shatter. It had the flavor of a modified Rice Krispie treat, crunchy and light but with much less sweetness and without the gooey marshmallow element of the American treat.

“In Hong Kong we are an international city,” said Sham. “We have a lot of food, just like America,” he said.

A few steps away members of the Austrian-German-Swiss Club greeted students who stopped by. A map of the region printed in German hung above their table.

“Every Friday we meet up and we play games in German,” said Catalina Lee, the club’s president. “So, like hangman in German. We do a Jeopardy Trivia thing in German. So, that way we are exposed to the German culture, the language, all sorts of things,” said Lee. “Gummy Bears originated in Germany,” she said.

 

Near the small green packets of Gummy Bears on the groups table were grotesque wooden masks of faces with exaggerated eyes, noses and frightening expressions.

“These masks are for this winter event—it’s a carnival thing,” explained Lee. “You scare away the winter ghosts. It’s an old superstitious thing. People wear it to scare away the ghosts,” said Lee.

As the Technicolor sounds of Coldplay’s “Sky Full of Stars” pumped out of speakers and floated into the air above the grass, the multi-colored flags of countries around the world fluttered in a soft breeze.

Nearby, Sean Tsu, a member of the Taiwanese Club was passing out samples of Pineapple Cake.

Tasting more like a shortbread cookie than a cake, with a dry, crumbly exterior texture and a jam-like pineapple filling, the “cake” was broken into small pieces and served in immaculate, white paper cups.

“Pineapple is the most popular flavor in Taiwan,” said Tsu, who added that there are pineapple plantations in Taiwan.

Wearing glasses and a striped shirt, Tsu smiled as he handed out samples of cake and shared a little-known fact about boba.

“I think most people do not know that Boba tea came from Taiwan,” said Tsu. His favorite is served a short drive from campus at a shop on Sawtelle Boulevard. "Coco's boba is tastier and chewier," he said.

Now in its 17th year, International Week at SMC, a joint project of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, will continue its efforts to educated students on international food and culture.

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