Cultural Market Excursion
I think food is the best way to connect people, as food possesses the ability to transcend language barriers, becoming the universal language of love.
Since starting my on-campus job at the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS), I've been contemplating ways to help students reconnect with their culture and explore their friends' traditions. Living halfway around the globe, I deeply understand the struggle of craving home-country dishes. The yearning for familiar tastes becomes especially challenging here.
Yet, amidst this culinary homesickness, a small dish of Nepali curry, prepared by my friends, became a source of comfort. A spoonful of curry with steaming white rice became a comforting balm during freezing winter nights at Augustana.
My gratitude stems from more than just satisfying a craving — it's about reconnecting to Asian culture. In our shared moments over a pot of curry, I not only tasted the flavors but absorbed my friends’ stories embedded in each dish. Each cuisine, diverse yet strangely familiar, became a medium through which I learned about my friends in the most intimate way possible.
This experience led me to create the Cultural Cooking Workshop, a twice monthly event inviting students from various cultural backgrounds to showcase their culinary heritage to the campus community. It goes beyond the act of cooking; it's a narrative of stories and cultures intertwined with the dishes.
However, the journey didn't end there. My OISSS supervisor, Xong Sony Yang, proposed an additional program to enrich students' cultural learning — the Cultural Market Excursion. Every two weeks we embark on trips to diverse cultural markets like Khai Market, Namaste Plaza, Metro Community Market, T&T Asian Market, Le Mexicano and more. Beyond being a shopping expedition, these trips are designed for students to learn from one another.
Picture this: sharing your roommate's favorite childhood snack on the OISSS van ride back home, accompanied by stories from their homeland. It's a cultural exchange in its most authentic form — a journey of shared snacks and newfound knowledge.
I have learned so much from the Cultural Market Excursion and the Cultural Cooking Workshop. Our visits to local markets, often run by immigrants in the Quad-Cities area, not only expose students to diverse cultures but also contribute to the visibility of these markets within the Augustana community. This fosters a lasting connection, aligning with the values of our small liberal arts college in Rock Island.
Seeing the joy on my friends' faces after each excursion and workshop fuels my motivation to create even more enriching programs. Are you ready to grab a seat on the OISSS vans to explore these wonderfully familiar yet strangely cuisines? Join us!
Keep up to date with OISSS on Instagram @oisss_augie.
WQAD News story: New Augustana program gives international students a taste of home.
Hoang is a first-year student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, majoring in economics and applied mathematics.