ISA storytelling event focuses on cross-cultural experiences

Weinberg freshman Julia Azarcon talks about her struggles with speaking Chinese while studying abroad. Several other students also shared their study abroad experiences at the Celtic Knot on Wednesday evening.

Hillary Back/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg freshman Julia Azarcon talks about her struggles with speaking Chinese while studying abroad. Several other students also shared their study abroad experiences at the Celtic Knot on Wednesday evening.

Rebecca Savransky, Reporter

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The International Student Association’s global engagement committee hosted a forum Wednesday giving students the opportunity to share stories about interacting with people of different cultures.

About 25 students attended the event, titled “Global Thread,” at The Celtic Knot, where individuals presented their experiences and gave advice on how to navigate cultural gaps in the United States and abroad.

ISA holds the discussion twice a year, each time with a different theme. Wednesday’s theme was “Lost in Translation.”

“Our aim was to bring the experiences of international and domestic students together through this storytelling event,” said Bienen sophomore Lara Saldanha, a member of the global engagement committee.

Six students presented their stories, taking the theme both literally and figuratively with tales about the importance of eliminating stereotypes and dealing with language barriers in different countries.

Weinberg junior Katherine Sobolewski talked about her experience on an Alternative Student Breaks trip to Arizona, where she volunteered for a group called “No More Deaths.” During the trip, Sobolewski said she learned it was important not to make assumptions about people.

“Having this cultural shock made me realize that there’s so many different experiences, and you can’t really label individuals and impose any kind of identity on them,” Sobolewski said.

Weinberg sophomore Mert Salur talked about traveling to various parts of the world and respecting people’s customs and cultural norms.

“I’ve learned there are very different ways to approach and talk to people when you’re dealing with people from different places in the world,” Salur said.

Attendees said they enjoyed the combination of serious and funny stories. Weinberg freshman Sonia Mirchandani said she learned lessons and gained insight through listening to other people’s experiences.

“I liked learning about other people’s stories,” Mirchandani said. “I really liked what one speaker said, that you can’t give someone an identity or label without knowing how they feel about it.”

Kuan-Yu Shen, president of ISA, said the speakers were engaging and allowed audience members to gain broader perspectives of cultures beyond their own.

“I thought it was really interesting how the speakers took ‘Lost in Translation’ in different ways, with varying degrees,” said Shen, a SESP junior. “These students shared so many cultural experiences that we should learn and appreciate.”

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