September 22, 2015
By Emily Lapinski
This summer, Dominican University launched a pilot program called The Global Discovery Program, which is modeled after international houses around the world. The program began May 25 and runs through August 14, and involves six ELS and seven Dominican students, all of whom live at the Priory in the east wing of Aquinas Hall.
“We are fortunate to have such a strong cultural perspective in this program,” says Amy McCormack, senior vice president for finance and administration, who is the founder and co-director of the program. “The ELS students are from Turkey, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil and Thailand, and our Dominican students have international backgrounds from countries like Jamaica, Nigeria, Mexico and the Philippines.”
Students meet twice a week- on Wednesday evenings and Sundays- to engage in topical discussions as well as social outings. In addition to the meetings and social outings, the students are expected to keep a journal of activities outside of group meetings. To help encourage small group interaction, they each received coupon books and gift cards to different restaurants that they could use during their free time.
“We organize our topical discussions around things like media, world religions, pop culture, education, and consumerism because those are all aspects of different cultures,” says McCormack. “On Sundays we do a variety of activities and always try different ethnic foods when we get dinner.”
The students have been enjoying their time together and have learned to value their differences.
“I was happy to be able to interact with the ELS students,” says Sean Liu ‘15. “When I was a junior, I lived on the same floor as the ELS students at the Priory and it was a great experience.”
Sophomore August Gamboa says, “I like that we talk about cultural difference and how to be respectful when referring to different cultures, but what is most interesting is seeing how international students view American and then how American students view America.”
“I enjoy the program because I get to speak with my classmates and improve on my English,” says Migdonia Hernandez, an ELS student from Columbia. “It is very interesting when we speak about places like Taiwan and Thailand because before this I didn’t know anything about their culture.”
Senior Yvette Velazquez says, “It’s great to acknowledge similarities and differences among the different cultures. All of us live together and trust each other so it’s really like a family. I am able to help the ELS students with any questions they may have regarding their homework or the city.”
“This program gives me the opportunity to really connect with native speakers,” says Arunwadee Sakulchoowong, an ELS student from Thailand. “The best part is that these native speakers are my age so I can really relate to them. I would have to say my favorite topic we gave discussed is stereotypes because I think that it is important to talk about them.”
As the program comes to a close, it has been deemed a success.
“I think the students learned something about themselves and increased their cultural awareness,” says McCormack. “I see a lot of good conversation in the small groups and it is great to see them tackle their differences. The goal is for them to improve their intercultural communication because this knowledge can help them in multiple aspects of their lives.”