Carolina Torres - Staff Writer -
The word “Oktoberfest” appears on a small screen. Fifteen Southern students are sitting around a table staring at the laptop.
“What is a German tradition held in October each year?” someone cries out immediately.
The other students start laughing. Southern’s People to People club is playing cultural Jeopardy.
“I thought this could be a nice icebreaker for us,” said Aaron Hyla, president of the club. “And at the same time, we learn about each other’s culture. I created it with the help from the internationals.”
The People to People club was, according to its constitution, founded in 1962. It is an organization dedicated to keeping diversity on Southern’s campus, as stated on the club’s webpage. Its goal is described as helping international students to find their place on campus, as well as to help local students be more aware of the diversity around them.
“We have people from Germany, France, the Philippines, Turkey, Portugal, South Korea, Columbia, Denmark and other countries,” said Hyla.
The club is more about getting in touch with each other, said the club’s president. The networking in the club primarily takes place on Facebook.
“We just add each other on Facebook,” Hyla said. “If there are any events, we post it in the People to People group.”
Beatrice Granström, who is from Sweden, said the club helped her to get to know other students in the United States.
“I found friends to hang out with,” said Granström, who will stay as an exchange student at Southern for one semester. “It’s hard to get in contact with the other students; of course I meet them in class, but they are in class to be in class and not because they want to meet people.”
Granström added that she enjoys discussing different cultural aspects.
“We had a discussion about man and woman in different cultures the other day,” she said. “We also talked about our relation to our parents and how we have been raised in our home country. I like to hear about other cultures; it can be really interesting.”
Alexander Ehrenreich, originally from Colombia, who came to the U.S. when he was only six months old, said he joined the People to People club this fall semester.
“It’s really cool that the club binds together all these international people,” he said.
Ehrenreich pointed out that almost no Americans are coming to the club meetings.
“Americans need to be more cultural,” he said. “They should see how other people from other countries their age interact. The club is a great opportunity for that.”
One of the few Americans who joined the People to People club is Louis Fournier.
“I heard that there are some Germans on campus,” he said. “I’m studying German, so I wanted to get to know them. Then I met Aaron Hyle and he told me about the club. So I went there and met all these people. We kept in touch and I made some really good friends.”
Fournier said that people here in the U.S. are not really passionate about other languages and other cultures.
“They are all wrapped up in their own lives and they often have really closed views,” he said. “We have our same routine every day over and over again. It’s refreshing meeting these people from all over the world. You can compare cultures and traditions with them and you can also be part of their traditions. I make new experiences every time I see them.”