International Student Shares Culture and Food From the Country Close to Her Heart

Seeking to understand new cultures can present many challenges, but the International Student Center’s Lunch and Learn event makes learning about other lifestyles and customs effortless and accessible. In a place as diverse as Liberty University, where a variety of cultures are represented, becoming aware of others’ backgrounds is a rewarding experience.

The International Student Center (ISC) at Liberty serves as a space to provide assistance and care for international students. The center frequently hosts activities and events to connect international and    domestic students. 

A popular ISC event is the Lunch and Learn, described by ISC Director Kristina Bautista as a mutual cultural learning experience for both student types. Lunch and Learn enables students to participate in cross-cultural exchange and experience cultural elements such as music and dress and tasting foods of a specific country.

The Oct. 8 Lunch and Learn spotlighted the country of Colombia. Daniela Garcia, an international relations major, described the culture of Colombia while showcasing Columbian foods for students to try. Garcia and the ISC staff prepared traditional Columbian recipes— Arepas and Hot Chocolate with cheese — to serve guests.

Garcia shared a simple presentation on the rich culture, history and lifestyle of Colombia. 

“I want students to know that Colombia is more than coffee, and Columbia is more than what they have heard so far,” Garcia said. “That’s why I kept the presentation simple but intentional. I really wanted them to know how intentional Colombians are when it comes to relationships and when it comes to small moments.”

Lunch and Learn attendees experienced a thorough walkthrough of Colombia in a little over an hour, including information about the significance of the colors of the Colombian flag, the slower-but-deliberate pace of the Columbian lifestyle, Columbian traditions and values, the country’s deep love for soccer and the complex and conflicted history of the Columbian nation.

Garcia’s presentation left attendees with reactions of excitement and interest. Sophomore Abby Din, who is majoring in international business, wanted to learn about another culture and said learning about Columbia was a rewarding experience.

“It was really cool to hear from another student about what it’s like to live in Colombia and all of the really cool features of the country, and trying the food from there,” Din said.

In seeing Garcia’s passion for her country and culture, senior Hayden Goff found learning about Columbia to be an engaging experience. 

“I’m always open to learning about new cultures, so I just thought it was exciting and fun,” Goff said. “It was especially nice having people that are from there being able to explain their culture, and it made it more enjoyable to see the presenter’s passion for it.”

Graduate student Andrew Pivetz found himself feeling enlightened by Garcia’s presentation. 

“It was all new to me,” Pivetz said. “I was just taking [it] in and [was] even surprised about how different cultures are, which tends to be always surprising. So, I definitely benefitted from the experience because it’s like a new way of thinking.”

Garcia described sharing her culture with the students during the Lunch and Learn as a pleasant and enriching experience. 

“I feel like I am heard, and that I am welcome in this place, and that I can freely express part of who I am,” Garcia said. “So definitely I feel warm. I feel complete doing this.” 

To learn about other events hosted by the International Student Center, check out the event calendar on the ISC website or follow their Instagram account, @luinternationalstudents

Tso is a feature writer.

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