Diversity Dialogue addresses cultural relations

By Melody Bailiff

UK students joined together Thursday to break down stereotypes and become more culturally aware through discussion of international relations with their peers.

The Multicultural Affairs committee of the Student Activities Board is dedicated to helping students from different backgrounds understand each other.

In the last Diversity Dialogue of the semester, international relations were discussed in hopes of helping students understand how Americans are viewed and how international students feel at UK.

Students gathered to share stories of studying abroad and how their experiences changed their views of the world.

Waqar Khan, an international student from Pakistan, said he expected America to be like Hollywood movies. Disappointed in the lack of action he found in Kentucky, he still found some good in America.

“People are more friendly than back home — you can walk on campus and people smile and say ‘hi.’ Everyone is treated equally, I love freedom of speech, thank you America,” Khan said.

Khan shared simple cultural differences between America and Pakistan. In Pakistan, looking a professor in the eye is a sign of disrespect. In America, students are expected to look a professor in the eye. Khan said he appreciates this informality allowed at American schools with their professors and said it makes learning a lot more relaxed.

Khan said the biggest miscommunication he feels is over religion. He said most Americans do not really understand religions from other countries, about which people should become more culturally aware.

Juhee Kim, a human nutrition junior from South Korea, said that from the age of eight, students in his country learn English.

Many students were shocked not only to hear this, but to hear that students go to school from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and do not get their licenses until age 18.

Kim said she was most excited to come to America and be able to get out of class and head to the mall.

As Kim talked, there was a consensus among the American students that they usually do not think twice about how they get out of class early and spend their free time doing what they want.

Students continued to discuss how Americans are viewed when they study abroad and the stereotypes placed upon them.

One student said that in Spain, all of the locals think Americans just want to party and know they can find students at the bars. Also, Americans tend to stick with their groups and not venture beyond their cliques.

Jasmine Whitlow, director of Multicultural Affairs, advised students to get out of their comfort zones and do things the way locals do.

“What’s normal to them isn’t normal to us, but doing it their way is an enriching experience,” Whitlow said.

Students who have traveled to different countries shared their experiences and discussed the obstacles they faced, such as locals thinking they were too “Americanized” or that they were not as educated as the rest of the world.

Throughout the discussion, students gained new insight into how people in other countries think and feel about Americans studying abroad and how international students feel about their time at UK.

“I gained a little more insight on the value of other students and how I view the world,” Alex Huellemeier, a freshman who attended the dialogue, said. “I want to go abroad and I want to know what to be prepared for.”