Culture Salon: Alternative Ways to International Communication
Posted 05/16/2017 09:00AM

Shu Ye '18 presenting to classmates

by Shu Ye ’18 and Diana Kuznetsova ’18

At the beginning of April 2017, a new TASIS club—Culture Salon—was officially launched. Culture Salon is a club for students to meet together, make friends, enjoy culture-based snacks, communicate and experience cultural diversity at TASIS, and improve self awareness of identities. We are very grateful to Ms. Aeschliman and Ms. Abisi for helping our club come to realization. Culture Salon provides students with an opportunity to attend multiple cultural events in different places with school support.

"The School is thoughtful and intentional about helping students to appreciate cultural diversity and develop international understanding through International Week, Academic Travel, Global Service, the Advisor program, the selection of roommates in the dorms, the language program, and, of course, attracting students from more than 60 countries to join the TASIS community,” said Ms. Abisi, who has agreed to be our club’s Faculty Advisor. “While the School provides all of these things for students, students also help develop international understanding in informal ways through their curiosity and the friendships they create. The Culture Salon is a student-generated initiative that will help contribute to and support the TASIS mission of global citizenship."

Another goal of our club is to open students’ eyes to new countries, traditions, and cultures and perhaps even to expand their understanding of their own culture so that they can have a clear idea about who they are and where they come from.

The idea of creating Culture Salon came to us last year during International Week. We saw how much pleasure the week had brought to all of the students, and we realized that we could take advantage of TASIS’s international environment to provide a platform for students to get a deeper understanding of other’s culture and traditions. We wanted students to make friends with those from different nationalities, as we did. (Our own international and unexpected friendship was another reason we wanted people to join our club.) Based on our experience, we think that communication is one of the most important things students need. Thus, we started planning on creating a Culture Salon for students to meet people and share their ideas and knowledge.

We listed our main goal in our proposal and submitted it to our club advisor, Ms. Abisi. Our club hopes to enhance International Week activities and encourage students to participate more; therefore, we came up with ideas for activities, such as an international friendship photo competition. Students are encouraged to share their stories, presentations about their cultures, or issues concerning their countries. We believe that students will use our club as a platform to create long-lasting friendships with students from around the world, which can be overwhelming and difficult to do on your own when you come to a new school. That is when our club comes in handy for new students who want to make friends and feel comfortable in our international school environment.

Another goal of our club is to open students’ eyes to new countries, traditions, and cultures and perhaps even to expand their understanding of their own culture so that they can have a clear idea about who they are and where they come from. We want them to realize that all of them are unique individuals at TASIS; they represent their cultures, and they are also important parts of the integral culture at TASIS. Through deep and comprehensive communication, we hope that ultimately we can eliminate cultural misunderstandings that could create a barrier between students.

Last but not least, we want to promote international culture communication at TASIS, as it is difficult to make friends with people from other countries if your knowledge of English does not allow you to clearly communicate with others; our club helps improve students’ speaking skills.

We decided to get the club started as soon as we came back from Spring Break. When we needed to put this into action, we faced plenty of challenges. Frankly, we are not very outgoing, and we sometimes feel stressed when talking to people we are not familiar with. Therefore, at the beginning we simply posted some advertisements about our club around the campus and waited for people to sign up. However, after a few days, we found out that no one had signed up yet. We realized that people probably did not have time to read the posters, and in order to get people to join us, we needed to talk to them in person and make them interested in our club. With Ms. Abisi's help, we walked around our dorm, talking to people and briefly introducing our club. It was hard but effective. Twenty-three people attended our first meeting.

TASIS Cultural Salon

During this initial meeting, which was held on May 1, we got to know each other and counted how many different nationalities we have in our group. We were excited to see that we have students who inherited multiple cultures or have experienced different cultures. We asked them for their ideas and suggestions about our club activities. Fortunately, all the students were very enthusiastic and gave us many inspirations.

The club is designed to meet every two weeks. Before the end of May, we got everyone together again to have our last meeting of this year. We met at Ms. Abisi’s house, and we enjoyed Japanese curry snacks and the sunset in Ms. Abisi’s garden. We got a map of the world and gave students colorful pins, so they can put them on the places that represent their cultures. Everyone participated better than we expected. We started off by putting the pins on the map Ms. Abisi kindly provided, and everyone was happy to leave a mark of themselves. In order to give students an idea of what we are going to discuss in the future, I took this chance to present some basic information about culture. I taught them some terms about culture and led a discussion. I tried to convey some fundamental theories, such as the idea that we need to see different cultures relatively and comprehensively. Another intention of this presentation was to encourage students to do their own presentations in the future. We wanted them to know that the atmosphere is friendly and encouraging, and they should be brave and share their own ideas. We were surprised that even before the end of the meeting, a few students came to us and expressed their willingness to present next year.

We were glad that students were encouraged and inspired through our first discussion, and Ms. Abisi is pleased with our start.

"I am very happy to be the Culture Salon's Advisor,” she said. “I am proud of Shu and Diana for creating such a wonderful initiative, developing a proposal, crafting posters, and writing an invitation to students for the daily bulletin. As a result of their efforts, Culture Salon had a very successful first and second meeting."

It is a great honor to have so many motivated students join us, and we hope next year our club can be more and more popular among TASIS students. We are planning on making our activities more diversified and fulfilling our initial goal; for example, in order to stir self awareness, we want to have a workshop about the origins of our names. We hope students will be inspired to take another step in exploring a new culture.

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