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Asian center connects international students


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By Matt Bloom




Freshmen international students Angelo Pereira and Jiaqi Mao sat in the living room of the Asian Culture Center, talking about their hometowns and their first experiences at IU, while others wrote names in different languages on a white board.

First-year SPEA graduate student Milu Gao ate, drank and celebrated the end of her one and a half week long orientation.  

“It feels comfortable, like home here,” Gao said.

More than 100 new international students gathered at the ACC Tuesday.

The afternoon tea allowed students to learn about the center’s resources and role on campus.

The event marked the beginning of the ACC’s Fall 2013 event calendar, which includes world culture celebration Culturefest, an open house and the IU Asian Fair and Welcome Reception.

“IU students are very lucky to have these varying resources,” said ACC Director Melanie Castillo-Cullather. “Other colleges have folded their cultural centers together, limiting the support available.”

The Leo R. Dowling International Center was repurposed last year as the Office of Overseas Study. The Office of International Services was combined with the International Admissions Office.

The Asian Culture Center has promoted Asian culture on campus since 1998, according to its website.

Gao said many people have misconceptions about the inclusiveness of the
center.

“It’s important to invite students that aren’t Asian to these events,” she said. “We want to emphasize the presence of our culture on campus without shutting others out.”
Including everyone is a priority to Castillo-Cullather.

She said some people assume the ACC is only open to people of Asian heritage, though it is open to all students.
 
“Different cultural centers exist to highlight unique needs of different people in our community,” Castillo-Cullather said.

The ACC hosts regular round-table discussions, English tutoring programs and weekly games from Asian culture such as Mah-Jong and Go.

“Outside of here these students don’t know each other, but when they come they immediately connect,” Castillo-Cullather said.

Laura Baumann is a freshman staff member at the ACC. During the afternoon tea she arranged tables offering sushi, tea and cookies.

“It’s a very low-key atmosphere here,” said Baumann. “People can easily come and feel comfortable.”

She said she felt accepted when she interned at the ACC her senior year of high school, so she joined the staff to help other IU students.

According to its website the ACC helps students adapt to the changing local and international environment in which they learn.

“We are making sure to let them know there is a place here students can call home,” Castillo-Cullather said.

Castillo-Cullather said she believes bringing international and domestic students together better prepares them for working in the real world.

She said the afternoon tea party allowed international students to connect in a supportive environment.

“Everyone here has their own dream and the ambition to pursue it,” Mao said. “Having a place like this helps balance the huge difference between Asian and Western culture.”

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