Although it costs Anisa Ismail $1,000 and takes her 36 hours to get from Washington, D.C., to her hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she said the destination is worth the trip.
“I love the fact that I can walk out of my house without wearing a jacket or boots,” Ismail, a senior in the School of International Service, said, referring to clothes necessary to wear in the Malaysian climate.
Ismail was one of three speakers at the International Speakers Round Table who made presentations about the history and culture of their countries on Friday. The other two speakers were from Brazil and Uganda.
Duval Guimaraes, a junior in SIS originally from Brazil, discussed race in his home country. He said, unlike other countries, there are no distinctions made because of race. Instead, he said, distinctions are made upon class.
“You are who you describe yourself as,” Guimaraes said. “So a lot of people of mixed ancestry might call themselves white.”
According to Guimaraes, multiracial people who claimed to be white sometimes define themselves as black to get privileges reserved for the historically underprivileged Afro-Brazilians.
Tina Byenkya, a junior in SIS from Uganda, used her presentation to clarify issues related to the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group from Northern Uganda that recruited children to be soldiers. She said although many nongovernmental organizations claim to be financing rescue and rehabilitation of former child soldiers, it is unclear where that money is going.
“It’s becoming a money-making business,” she said. “You literally see NGOs on every street corner in the north.”
Pamela Fernandez, a junior in the School of Communication from Honduras, said she came to support her friends who were presenting.
“There’s also something exciting about learning about other cultures,” she said. “The more you know about others, the more you learn about yourself. Sometimes you hear people talking about their country and culture and you think, ‘Aha! We have the same problem or system or whatever.’” Jennifer Kelly, a prospective SIS master’s student, said the event allowed her to hear the experiences of different international students so that she could better evaluate which concentration of study she wished to focus on.
“I was at the SIS building and heard that there was an international student event here,” Kelly said. “I lucked out because it was really interesting.”
International Student and Scholar Services and the International Student Leadership Team started the round table series last fall. They aim to have two events per semester involving students from different countries.
The goal is to help the AU community learn more about different cultures, said Kristina Thompson, an ISS adviser.
“We get a lot of U.S. students [who] come up to us and say that they want to learn more about international students but don’t know who to ask,” Thompson said.