Monday, 3 November 2014

Global Citizenship Summit

You should definitely plan to attend Lambton College’s 2015 Global Citizenship Summit.

The Lambton Inn Residence and Event Centre was packed this past Wednesday for the inaugural Global Citizenship Summit, which completely sold out. The event showcased food, music, dance, cultural traditions, and information from many different cultures, and it was a wonderful chance to celebrate the diversity that Lambton College is so lucky to have.

Each guest received a passport, which we were encouraged to fill with travel stamps from the various different countries’ and cultures’ displays around the perimeter of the space. The students at these tables were knowledgeable and passionate about their cultures, and they shared stories, photographs, and information. The young women at the Brazil table had coffee samples for us to smell, and they told us about how their families brewed coffee back home. The men from Nigeria explained that dress differs by region across their country, and so does music: in the east, talking drums help send messages for those who can decode them. At a table devoted to First Nations traditions, Summer, a young woman who has been elected to serve as a role model for her community, told us about some of the traditional instruments her culture shares. Each table offered a brief introduction to a culture and a chance to ask questions and engage.

Dinner was delicious: we sampled food from Sitara (Indian food), Giresi’s (Italian), Personal Touch (Thai), Victory Buffet (Chinese), Chow Ciao (American), and Chartwells (Canadian).

The evening began with a performance and traditional dance by White-lightning Clark, the 2014 President of the Aboriginal Students’ Council, and Breanne Stonefish, from Moraviantown. Breanne was performing a dance called the Women’s Fancy Shawl, and White-lightning danced the men’s grass, which represents the long flowing grass of the prairies in the wind. (Thanks to White-lightning for this background information!)

We then heard speakers who shared perspectives on cultural connections and transitions. My favourite event of the evening was the closing International Round Table. Ruth Dewitt asked three Lambton students—Vidya, from India; Sophie, from China; and Uzo, from Nigeria—to share their experiences of life in Canada so far. Their stories had us all laughing at moments (Vidya’s favourite thing about Canada is Niagara Falls, and Uzo found her first Canadian winter so cold that she thought to herself, “I will die”), but they left us with something to think about, too. When asked what her biggest frustration with Canada is so far, Sophie mentioned the slang: she can’t always understand her professors and classmates when they use idiomatic expressions. And while all three women said they appreciate the warmth and welcome they’ve received from Lambton College and Canadians more generally, Uzo told the audience a different story: she had spoken with a domestic student at length one day, and thought they’d made a real connection, but found that the next day the student didn’t seem to remember their conversation and passed by without even smiling. Vidya said that Lambton students are warm, but that it’s always the international student who must initiate conversation, since domestic students never approach her.

Events like this are important for reminding all of us how much richer our community is for these students’ presence and participation. Wendy Asher closed the night by reminding us that this isn’t the end: instead, it’s just the beginning of an important conversation. That’s how I’m going to think of it: this is the first moment in an ongoing connection with our international students, who encourage us to see our community more broadly and celebrate the diversity we find there.

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