The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 4, 2013

GRA international students share favorite dishes from homeland

Star Beacon

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — Most people enjoy a good hamburger on a regular basis, or maybe pizza on a Friday night; but few people get to experience an authentic dish from a different continent every month. At Grand River Academy this year, that is exactly what the student body has experienced. Due to our considerable student population of international students, each month a different cultural representation prepares an authentic dinner for the entire student body.

So far this year, Korea, China, Germany, Russia and Japan representatives have prepared meals. Dishes from Rwanda and Ethiopia will be prepared later this month. Every meal brings a different flavor to the campus, and for most students, an entirely new culinary experience.

Senior Dom Buker said, “The meals are great because it not only gives us a glimpse into the lives of people around the world, but it also shows us how our international peers live when they are not here.”

In previous years, before the international population reached double digits at Grand River, all of the international students would get one week per year to share their culture and cuisine. Now that there are more than 20 international students from more than six different countries, each culture gets its own month.

“When we started this program, the students only had one week to experience the life of different cultures,” said Angela Thomas, coordinator of foreign exchange life and English as a second language teacher. “Now there are much more opportunities for our international students to inform and educate their peers about where they are from. They are excited about sharing their culture and foods with the school. This not only provides an opportunity for Americans to learn about international life, but also a chance for the international students to work and bond with our domestic population.”

The Chinese population cooked rice noodles, Hunan chicken and pork dumplings for the entire school this past Tuesday, and the entire school eagerly awaits African month as Chinese month concludes.

The international students enjoy preparing the meals as much as American students enjoy eating them. Ming He, a senior from Ning Po, China, who has lived at Grand River since his freshman year said, “According to the growing amount of international kids, our school has become more diverse over the years. Now that there is such a large population, the cultural dinners are a good way to share with our American brothers. It helps us show our traditions and provides us with the chance to practice our communications with Americans. On top of that, it gives us a chance to taste our home food again, which we all miss while we are here.”

All are in agreement that sharing cultures from around the world is beneficial to the student body. No matter what reason anybody has for enjoying the meals and presentations, the personal growth that takes place is undeniable. Each month, every resident of Grand River Academy learns something new about his peers, the world and himself. Perhaps international cuisine will be on the menu when students travel home for summer vacation.