International photo exhibit promotes cultural awareness

By Kevin DeStefano
Correspondent

Photographs from traveling abroad were placed in the New Library lobby from students in the International House. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Photographs from traveling abroad were placed in the New Library lobby from students in the International House. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

“Picturing TCNJ Around the World,” a photo showcase in the main lobby of the New Library, helped to raise awareness for international culture, studying abroad and showcasing the many experiences students have had while taking part in the international experience.

The exhibit was set up to support International Education Week, “Bodies & Borders,” and it displays many photos taken by students abroad, as well as international student profiles, which talked about students currently taking classes at the College, raising awareness of other cultures.

In addition to offering insight into other cultures, Jon Stauff, director of International and Off-Campus Programs said, “the profiles of international students offer us insight into our own campus community from the perspective of our new friends.”

The project was put together by members of the International House, a residence located in the Townhouses which are comprised of both domestic and international students, and it’s just one such venture taking place during International Education Week to encourage international diversity.

Wendy Holland, a junior Spanish and elementary education major and member of the International House, said the vision behind the photo showcase was to bring together members of the International House. The exhibit is also being used “to create an exhibit that would promote awareness not only concerning international studies but also the many similarities that are found between different cultures,” she said.

Not only does a semester abroad expose students to other cultures, but it also brings them out of their comfort zone and stimulates growth through a fresh perspective.

“I believe that (College) students enjoy every minute of their study abroad experience. The benefits of a semester abroad are truly endless. You grow so much as a person when you travel the world,” Holland said.

International students residing at the College this semester are native to countries including Argentina, Germany, Thailand and Japan, and although they might be faced with obstacles including the language barrier, one of the hardest things to get used to is the cuisine.

Friedrich Freund, a 23-year-old physics major who came to the College from Frankfurt, Germany said, “Although the food here is different, when I return to Germany I will miss things like a Tabasco-burger.”

Despite the challenges when planning to study abroad — such as finances, degree program requirements, or simply not wanting to leave friends and family — people in the international community at the College would argue that all these issues can be worked around.

Holly Ogren, Japanese program coordinator and International House academic adviser, said that despite certain dilemmas, the most common issue facing students wishing to travel abroad is misconceptions.

“Some people think that they can’t study abroad because of not being able to fit it into their degree program(s), finances, or any other of a number of things. However, more often than not students find that they can in fact work around these perceived obstacles, if they take the time to carefully consider their options,” Ogren said.

However, studying abroad is just one option for students aspiring to diversify themselves culturally. New Jersey is host to a multitude of cultures and the College reflects that with many diverse student organizations.

“Students can practice getting out of their comfort zone right here on campus,” Ogren said, and the “Picturing TCNJ Around the World” showcase is just one of many projects that promotes ideals of cultural awareness.