INTERNATIONAL CORNERSTONE

October 10, 2001 11:00 pm
INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION EXCHANGE: Eastern Oregon University student Seong-Jin Lee of South Korea shows a landmark of interest on a map to classmates Wednesday during an International Cornerstone session. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION EXCHANGE: Eastern Oregon University student Seong-Jin Lee of South Korea shows a landmark of interest on a map to classmates Wednesday during an International Cornerstone session. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

When these 50 Eastern Oregon University international students meet, a diverse cultural tapestry is formed.

The tapestry is connected by threads of shared experiences and perceptions.

The students who gather weekly are from 20 nations and are members of a new class at Eastern: International Cornerstone.

One purpose of the class, which meets Wednesdays for an hour, is to help bring Easterns international students together.

This is important said Elizabeth Boretz, an EOU Spanish professor who teaches the class. Boretz explained that international students often tend to associate most with those from their own country. They sometimes do not get to know the other foreign students at Eastern.

This is unfortunate since international students have much in common. For example, they all have experienced the similar challenge of adapting to Americas culture.

Boretz is doing a number of things through the class to bring these students together.

At each session, one student provides a brief talk about his or her culture. On Wednesday, Carmen Setiadji, an EOU student from Indonesia, discussed the people of his culture and their social customs. Setiadji also talked of the political unrest in Indonesia.

Each week students also share what they discovered while completing assignments meant to help them better understand American culture, among other things.

For example, one week students were asked to write down the inappropriate comments they heard. Many students discovered that Americans often make inappropriate remarks to each other. The students discussed ways people

can avoid making inappropriate remarks.

Students discuss their assignment findings in randomly divided small groups. This is done to encourage them to interact with students from other countries.

Boretz noted that when the class started many students wanted to stay with others from their country. This is no longer the case.

Min-Young Moon of South Korea said she normally spends most of his time with Koreans.

Moon said that she likes the class because it makes it easier for her to meet other international students in a comfortable and informal setting.

Harouna Savadogo of the African nation of Burinka Faso is among the students in the class who has found that international students share similar perceptions of Americans.

Savadogo said many international students are frustrated by the same basic questions Americans repeatedly ask about their countries.

Savadogo, who has been in the United States for eight years, tells students who are new to the United States not to be frustrated by the questions. He said that Americans ask such questions because they want to learn more about the students culture.

They want to get closer to you, Savadogo tells new international students.

The class, which runs through fall term, is being funded by a grant from the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs.

Terral Schut, EOUs international student adviser and director of the Eastern Experience program, obtained the grant for the university.

A key objective of International Cornerstone is to get international students to speak English more often.

I knew that the class would be successful the moment I saw those conversations begin. It is hard to make them stop, Boretz said.