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Spotlight: Grad student seeks to increase cultural understanding

BY ALAN TOUSSAINT | NOVEMBER 15, 2010 7:20 AM

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Eight students sat in a circle with Jung Ho Suh and his wife. Suh held a guitar, and the group sang several American songs before starting their meeting.

Suh hosts these gatherings weekly — a chance for students to share their cultures with others.

The 42-year-old Ph.D. candidate in the UI College of Education has sponsored these meetings at the Lindquist Center every Friday for the last nine months.

"I'm very interested in the ethnic group and the religion in the United States because the United States is a very multicultural society," Suh said.

He created this opportunity for students to inform each other about their different cultures — an idea stemming from his own personal interest in learning about students' backgrounds.

"The meeting is to learn from other cultures that students experience," he said.

At the beginning of the Nov. 12 meeting, Suh, eight students, and his wife, Kyung Suh, sang "Over the Rainbow" and "You Raise Me Up."

Suh played the guitar.

Da Xu, 31, a visiting scholar, shared his South Korean background on a projector screen by discussing famous music artists that he listens to from home.

Xu, who described the meeting atmosphere as "relaxing" and "welcoming," was joining the group for a second time.

"It's nice to see people around the world," he said. "I came to the meeting because I like to know about the different cultures and what other cultures look like."

Suh, who is working on his Ph.D. dissertation on Dutch immigrant schooling in Pella, Iowa, also shared some of the social backgrounds of the Dutch society by passing around red and purple magazines that depicted a Dutch lifestyle.

Before coming to the UI, Suh received a B.A. in sociology at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, in 1994 and then a master's degree in curriculum and teaching methodology at Chong Shin University in 1995. After graduation, he worked at a church school as a educational director from 1996-2000 in Seoul.

Suh decided that he wanted to go back to school and returned to the U.S. to be part of the Christian education program at Michigan State University from 2001 to 2005.

He said only one person attended the first meeting this year, but usually attendance varies at the cultural meetings.

"I was actually studying in the library, and [Suh] walked up to me and asked if I was an international student, and that's how I came to the meetings," said Amy Gorgone, a senior in linguistics and Japanese. She isn't an international student, but said the idea interested her.

Though this was her second time attending the meeting, she said it's helpful for international students.

"It's a good place to meet people and talk about their cultural experiences," she said.

Suh said he hopes to see more people attend the meetings next semester.

"If we meet another person or other cultures, we can get more information from their background," he said.


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