Experiencing Culture Without Travel

After a food bazaar and talent show, Asian Arts Weekend 2006 came to a close. With the weekend now over, questions come to mind: how do cultures from the rest of the world affect Andover students. And, how do events like those of this past weekend affect students’ perception of foreign cultures. New international students at Andover are greeted with a special orientation before the rest of the new students arrive. As an international student myself, I experienced it firsthand. In it, I experienced first “glimpses” of what to expect here. Activities ranged from name games to a hilarious demonstration of “American slang.” The purpose of these programs is to show people accustomed to different countries and cultures what to expect in the US and during their time here. After the orientation, we all assimilated, finding friends in the larger American population of the school. Yet at the same time, international students create bonds and foster a unique community within the school. Through the hard work of CAMD and certain student clubs, particularly International Club, the school attempts to bring a bit of the outside world to the school. Such events do wonders in transporting other cultures to Andover’s doorstep. Food festivals in particular provide an excellent way for students to learn about another area of the world. The various fashion shows hosted and smaller functions, such as demonstrations of foreign calligraphy in different languages, help provide an atmosphere of a different culture. These events fulfill the critical task of teaching people about the outside world. In this regard, their impact is very significant. Festivals held throughout the year set the tone and bring different environments (which are often native to a portion of the school) to the forefront. They are additionally held with the hope of making international students seem more than just foreign. Considering Andover students’ endless “depravity” of food, these events are also a great way to attract people. There is no end to people’s urges for General Tso’s Chicken or Potstickers. There are so many other aspects of the cultures exhibited around the campus that limiting their display to these few events detracts from many diverse foreign regions. Many clubs are already on the right track, bringing more speakers and hosting discussions on pertinent issues over dinner. A greater variety of activities would be a welcome addition though, if not just to increase visibility of certain clubs on campus. For instance, traditional cultural games can be a boon for their simple enjoyment. At the same time, the burden also rests on the community at large. Students can certainly learn a lot just by attending such events. And this will help enhance their lives long past their time at Andover. When there is very little hassle involved in attending such events, there is really no reason not to do so. Andover has the benefit of such a diverse student body with so many different groups of people represented. There remains so much diversity that international and national members of the community can learn from one another. Not actively encouraging and taking part in the experience negates one of the most unique aspects of the school.