Jetting off for a semester of study abroad isn’t the only way to explore a new culture. Your very own campus is a great place to start engaging with various cultures and lifestyles. Here are a few ideas to get you started...
Join a campus organization
Many colleges will have a huge fair at the beginning of each semester that allow all the student organizations on campus to represent themselves and recruit new members (just like fraternities and sororities host a rush week). Campus organizations will usually include: Cultural associations, LGBT groups, campus and local volunteer/service organizations, religious groups, arts/music/film clubs, outdoor sports and adventures clubs, environmental organizations and the list goes on and on! If a group catches your eye, whether or not you even know what it’s all about, start a conversation with the representative and at least sign up for their email list so you’ll be informed about their meetings and events. And it has been said before, but taking part in campus organizations, especially as an officer or active member, looks pretty good on your résumé to potential employers.
International student center/Cultural centers
Cultural centers often host a variety of events like musical performances, readings, lectures, film nights and food tastings so students can sample the traditions of a different culture. Especially during a country’s national or religious holiday or festival time (like Chinese New Year, Diwali or Cinco de Mayo), these cultural centers will often plan and host a big party or event.
Be a tour guide/mentor for international students
Some colleges may assign an orientation tour guide or mentor to international students to help them get acquainted with the campus, the city and meet new people. Sign up to be a part of this welcome committee for international students, and you’ll find yourself learning as much from them as they learn from you.
Foreign language departments
At my college, the Russian department hosted a weekly Russian tea hour where tea and pastries were served, and anyone wanting to improve their Russian skills or simply speak in Russian could attend. This included department faculty, Russian language students and Russian natives. Even if you’re not studying the language at the time, but are interested in learning, this could be a perfect way to practice and meet a diverse group of people who share your interest. If there’s no weekly department meeting, you can also post up a flier searching for a language tandem, also known as a language exchange, with someone who can teach the language you want to learn, and who wants to learn the language that you can teach.
Check out the restaurant scene
I’ll never forget 4th Street. On my campus, this was “restaurant row,” but it didn’t consist of your typical sandwich delis, taco joints or pizza places. Strolling down this narrow street was a magical culinary journey into Asia. A Thai place sat quaintly across from a Nepali café, and a few houses down you found an Indian restaurant, which was right beside a tiny Japanese grocer selling baby octopus and other unexpected delicacies. Take a walk or drive around your campus and city, and you might just discover something new and delicious. Some international grocery stores and restaurants might even have a bulletin board with fliers for upcoming cultural events.
Take a class
This option might seem obvious, but it’s likely your college will offer a variety of classes on the history, politics, language, literature and/or music of different cultures.
Visit the local church/mosque/temple
For a more intense perspective and a different outlook on life, attend a religious service at a local church, mosque, temple or other place of worship. However, before you go, find out if you can simply show up at the service or if there are certain rules of etiquette for attending as a guest. If possible, go with someone who regularly attends the service so you get a better understanding of what happens during the service.
Start your own campus organization
If you’re interested in a particular culture and your college doesn’t yet offer any venues for exploring this culture, why not organize your own group to celebrate and explore its traditions and festivals? Apply at your student government office as a formal student group, advertise online or with fliers all over campus. Send emails to your friends, professors, classmates and acquaintances; make a short announcement in your classes. And don’t forget: Being a founder and president of a college organization looks highly impressive on your résumé.