The More, The Merrier

| Special Features Editor
Jessica Yeung performs in the umbrella dance at Lunar New Year Festival 2009.  Culture Shock, a new student group on campus, is attempting to increase attendence at cultural events by people who are not a part of the culture. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Jessica Yeung performs in the umbrella dance at Lunar New Year Festival 2009. Culture Shock, a new student group on campus, is attempting to increase attendence at cultural events by people who are not a part of the culture. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Pick a cultural event on campus, be it Carnaval, Black Anthology or the bubble tea promotion on the 40. Then, take a look around. More often than not, the number of attendants that are of the culture being celebrated is larger than the number of attendants who do not identify with that culture. This can, to an extent, be expected. When one’s identity, or a friend’s, is being showcased people are more likely to set aside the time to experience events pertaining to it.

Despite lacking previous cultural or social ties to a group, people should feel that they can participate comfortably in campus events that celebrate cultures they wouldn’t otherwise know and learn about; after all, that is a large reason that cultural groups host these activities. Helping these students broaden their horizons is what Culture Shock, a new student group on campus, is all about. According to the Facebook group, Culture Shock is intended to help create an “open, welcoming, more diverse campus environment.” The group has aimed to expose its members to one cultural event on campus per week.

Sophomore Melissa Goldberg, Culture Shock’s external relations vice president, said the idea for the new group arose from insightful discussions in RCE, or “Redefining Community Experience”—a retreat sponsored by the Office of Student Activities that took place the week before the start of spring semester. Culture Shock attempts to translate some of the problems discussed in that retreat into on-campus action.

“Some people felt that they were interested in learning about other people’s cultural groups and what the groups do on campus, but they didn’t feel comfortable going to the meetings because they were not members of those culture groups,” Goldberg said about the origins of the group. “They felt there could be discomfort.” Responding to this feeling, Culture Shock was built upon the notion that the larger the group of interested people, the less uneasy they might feel about including themselves in the activities of cultural groups.

Sophomore member Erica Muñoz-Fitch said the new group’s goal is interesting; but might be difficult to maintain.

“All of the cultural groups say they’re happy for anyone to come at all times, that you don’t need a special group to come to their meeting,” Muñoz-Fitch said. “I think [Culture Shock] is valid in that a lot of our people, although they hear that, just don’t feel comfortable, so this will serve as a comfort zone for people who are sort of in the same boat. I think it’s way of adjusting a problem that people have been dealing with for a long time.”

Culture Shock is a new student group on campus designed to increase student involvement with cultures different from their own. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Culture Shock is a new student group on campus designed to increase student involvement with cultures different from their own. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

As part of Black History Month, Culture Shock’s most recently endorsed events and activities relate to African-American culture. The group provided a small number of free tickets to Black Anthology, and later this month, Culture Shock members will be attending the ABS Trivia Night, as well as events relating to Africa Week near the end of February.

A potential future subsidiary of Connect 4—though nothing has been set in stone—Culture Shock has also networked with the Russian Students Association, the Chinese Students Association, Mixed and other cultural programming groups. Goldberg expressed the group’s interest in engaging with these groups in the future by participating in activities like Russian Mardi Gras and the Persian New Year.

“On an individual basis, people feel comfortable talking to whoever,” Goldberg said, “but sometimes when there’s a group of people who share one culture, other people who are not of that culture can sometimes feel uncomfortable joining that group. So that’s what this is working to break down a little bit.”

For more information about Culture Shock, join the Facebook group or send an e-mail to wucultureshock@gmail.com.