The whole Arizona Western College campus can come out and experience different cultures once a month when selected students from the International program give a presentation about their home country.
February’s speaker, Aroona Maheshwari from Kantio Thar, Pakistan, offered insight into what it is like to be a student from Pakistan She also talked about that country’s food and cultural traditions, its tourist attractions and its interesting natural features.
Dressed in traditional Pakistani clothing, Maheshwari, 21, is excited to be attending AWC. She said her biggest challenge was the initial culture shock, especially the fact that males and females share the same dorms. She also was surprised when she was introduced to Mexican food.
“The rice and beans were made differently than I’m used to,” she said.
What she likes best about American culture is the rights that women enjoy.
“You can be what you truly desire,” she said. “Pakistan is getting to the same level of gender equality, but we have not come as far as the U.S. has.”
The presentations are held monthly usually on the third or fourth Thursday in AC 125, beginning at 12:15 and lasting until all questions are answered. Attendees are given snacks from that student’s country as well as typical trinkets if they answer questions about the presentation.
Aybuke Keehn, director of the International Program, believes it is important to understand different cultures.
“It is easy to understand our similarities, but can we accept people’s differences?” Keehn asks. “We can learn and hopefully in the future come to an understanding of world cultures, instead of downing other cultural practices.”
Most international students pay much higher tuition then non-citizens. Most come to the college on a scholarship, a complex process of about 14 months that involves investigating the student’s background and qualifications as well as their immediate family. When Maheshwari applied, 1400 students applied but only 50 were chosen.
As the first person to go to the US to study, Maheshwari is something of a celebrity in her hometown. She is making the most of her stay at AWC, and she’s grateful to be able to experience American culture first hand. She feels that Yuma is her second home and is excited that she has been so warmly welcomed.
“It feels like a second family,” said Maheshwari.
With 40 countries represented at AWC, it’s easy to get in a dose of cultural diversity. It doesn’t take much to walk up to an international student and start a conversation. They welcome the opportunity to start another friendship and to get a deepened understanding of U.S. culture.
Of course, spontaneous meetings are not everyone’s style. But that’s okay, the monthly presentations in the AC Building are designed to get everyone in touch with other cultures in a non-threatening atmosphere.