College offers opportunities for cultural exchange

Emily Kazungu

by Online Editor Emily Kazungu

I love traveling.

Traveling to as many countries around the world as possible is on my bucket list. I have been to the U.S. and Mexico, and if I am allowed to count the countries I passed through on my way to Kenya and back, then I have also been to the Netherlands, Belgium and Rwanda as well.

I would love to do more than pass through these countries. I would love to learn about the different cultures and people, too.

Unfortunately, I do not have the funds to travel the world yet. Plus, I have certain short-term goals I need to meet sooner rather than later, such as earning my degree.

On the contrary, I have still had the opportunity to learn about many countries since coming to UNA, even without stepping foot on their soil.

Since I have been a UNA student, I have met students from Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, The Gambia and Togo.

Because I get to spend so much time with other international students, I get the opportunity to learn about their home countries in such detail that I am almost transported there during conversations.

Meeting people from other countries has given me a different view and perception of other cultures. Some of these students are now my closest friends, and knowing that I did not know them before makes me wonder why it took so long to meet them and build a lifelong relationship.

Because UNA is so diverse, there are plenty of opportunities to interact with students from other cultures. Last year, UNA hosted 609 students from 52 countries around the world, according to an earlier article on campus diversity. This gives students on campus and people in the UNA community the opportunity to visit all these countries by meeting students from other parts of the world.

I knew most of the countries I have “visited” by name and from what I learned about them on TV. But actually meeting students from other countries gives a new perspective of their homelands that students cannot get from online articles or TV shows.

Also, when students go home to visit their families, thanks to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, I get the opportunity to see close-up photos of what their countries look like.

For anyone wanting to meet students from other cultures, the Office of International Affairs gives you the opportunity to do so in Powers Hall, beside Lafayette Residence Hall. They have forums where you can get to meet international students such as International Tea on the first Friday of each month, conversation partners and various events throughout the course of the semester.

This is not for Americans only, but for all students.

And as I hope to visit the home countries of all of my friends, I also encourage you to take any opportunities you can to visit other parts of the world. As Christian theologian and philosopher St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”