By Bentic Sebastian
When I was a freshman, I had a tough time choosing a dorm to live in. I did some research, and I finally decided to stay in PAR(Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls). Among many popular reasons (the great food being one of them), I wanted to stay at an LLC, which stands for a Living Learning Community. An LLC is a community of students who share a common interest, a theme of sorts. As a new international student, I found it beneficial to stay in an LLC, because I was able to make some good friends immediately after coming to the university. There are about eight LLCs to choose from in different dorms at the university. I chose to live in Global Crossroads.
Global Crossroads is a Living Learning community in PAR. We lived on the second and third floor of Saunders Hall (one of the four halls in PAR).Our theme was the culture and customs of the various countries around the world. My LLC was special to me because we were a group of people from very different countries, who were interested in learning about other cultures in the world. I lived with students from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. I got to meet people from Thailand, Kazakhstan, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Armenia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Brazil! Although I am not staying at Global Crossroads any more, I am still welcomed to social activities, and I meet new Global Crossroads members every year too!
At Global Crossroads, I was able to immerse myself in different cultures and learn about new customs practiced around the world. I have a good friend, who was born and raised in Kazakhstan. Although we both moved out of Global Crossroads, we kept in touch and met up occasionally. Once, at the beginning of a semester, he handed me a present. I didn’t know what it was, but it was shiny. After he explained what it was, I realized I was holding a goat’s foot, polished to perfection, and attached to a leather strap! My friend told me that in Kazakhstan, a goat’s foot was commonly considered to be a symbol of good luck. Although this is very different from American beliefs, a rabbit’s foot has been considered lucky for centuries by many countries, including the United States. Other countries are not as different as we think they are.
Through my friendships with people from Global Crossroads, I also found that perceptions of people depended on the culture they grew up in. I was also lucky to make some great friends who grew up in Malaysia. Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country, and having grown up in a Muslim environment myself in Dubai, I really connected with them and their festivities. After we left Global Crossroads and moved into apartments, my Malaysian friend invited me to his housewarming party in his new apartment. I got to try Malaysian rice, which is really delicious! I loved the rice so much that I got up from the sofa to get a second helping. I just decided to change my seat, so that I could meet some new people. After my second helping was done, I once again got up to take some more food, and then made my way to my old spot at the sofa. Once I went back to sit there, my friend told me that it was considered a bad sign in Malaysian culture if a person changed seats frequently at a party. She told me that a person who kept changing seats at a party or gathering would experience a lot of unstable marriages! She told me that in their culture, I would have been perceived as an indecisive person. At the same time, from my own upbringing, I felt that people would perceive me as a social person for reaching out to more people by changing seats!
Sometimes conflicts start due to misunderstandings, and a reluctance to accept other perspectives. I realized that many of the things that I believed to be true were viewed differently by different cultures. Global Crossroads provided the opportunity for me to experience different traditions and cultural perceptions by sharing our stories. As international students, we provide an opportunity for domestic students to learn more about the world in general. Help them “explore” the world, by sharing your stories and experiences!