Learning from speaking

Story by Sergii Gorbachov

The Center for International Education at UW-Eau Claire organizes a program called the Cultural Connections Program, which used to be called International Speakers Bureau. This program has existed for more than 20 years and consists of UW-Eau Claire international students who are interested in broadening cultural understanding in the Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley communities. The participants give speeches, presentations and interviews where they share their own perspectives about international topics with others.

The primary function of this Cultural Connections Program is to inform the community about other countries’ societies. International students give speeches and share with citizens of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls their culture, customs and what is important to them personally.

They may share what they expected American life to be like, what people in other countries think about the U. S. and what it is like to be international students.

Foreign students can speak about any aspect of their country from politics to traditional dances.

According to the information gathered on the Center for International Education Web site, some examples from past engagements (ranging from elementary classes to senior citizen groups) have included a folk song in French, a Chinese folk dance, structure of government of Sweden, U.S. relations with Japan, the system of education in Norway, numbers 1 through 10 in Russian, dating and marriage customs in Malaysia, aspects of religion in Thailand, current political issues in Taiwan and modern arts in Mexico.

After a speech, there is discussion and the audience can ask questions about an issue or something they are interested in. International UW-Eau Claire students can be invited by professors to classes to shed a light on some issues from their home countries.

Another goal of this program, which is not less important, is to give opportunity for international students to communicate, get involved and find out more about American culture.

Many students hesitate to speak and communicate with American people; this opportunity allows them to lose hesitation and become more confident.
There are 27 foreign students who are participating in this program this semester. They are from China, Malaysia, Nepal, South Korea, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Junior David Steinfeld, an international student from a town called Sulingen, which is near Hannover in Germany, presented to a local elementary school and to a Girl Scout troop.

He gave two presentations in an elementary school, and mainly he spoke about his home town, foods, sports, school system and politics. Because there are misconceptions about other countries cultures, he tried to do his best to explain them.

He was excited to talk about his own country and share information with the American people. David said he likes to talk about his country. He informed American adults and children and tried to help them understand his culture better.

About the audiences he said, “They were very receptive and looked interested in my speech. After the presentations, there were many questions asked that showed their wish to learn more about my country.”

The Cultural Connections program provides a unique opportunity for Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley people to learn about various cultures. This program is a great way to meet people from other parts of the world.

They can improve their understanding of people and their customs through the presentations, speeches, discussions and interviews.

They can have a great time communicating with foreign students, which is very interesting and sometimes funny. In turn, local people can talk about their own culture, tell more about the U.S. and its history and educate individuals who want to learn more about this country and this culture.

Gorbachov is a public communication major from Kharkov, Ukraine and a guest columnist for The Spectator.