Powell’s melting pot

Posted 10/23/18

It is not an understatement to say that Northwest College’s student body has an international flavor to it.

Not only does NWC have 55 international students from 26 different countries …

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Powell’s melting pot


It is not an understatement to say that Northwest College’s student body has an international flavor to it.

Not only does NWC have 55 international students from 26 different countries — including Greece, Serbia, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Uruguay, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and China — but the college’s Intercultural Program allows many of those students the chance to share some of their homeland cuisine with others.

Throughout the school year, the international students take turns cooking for the Intercultural Tuesday Lunch, which is served as part of NWC’s lunch buffet in the DeWitt Student Center.

“It’s nice to have the cultural awareness and the diversity,” said Cassie Loera, senior office assistant, humanities and intercultural programs. “Some people are always interested in trying new foods from different places and that’s always nice. Sometimes people are hesitant because it might not look normal or might not look like what they are used to — but I think for the most part they [like it].”

The international students also put a lot of work into preparing the food they share on Tuesdays, usually cooking on Monday afternoons.

“They have it ready to go, the kitchen heats it up and they serve it,” Loera said.

Alongside the cuisine of their homeland, the international students display several items relating to their culture, including informative videos, playing music from their homeland and also displaying their nation’s flag.

“It’s a good way to expand your horizons,” Loera said. “One of the ways that we advertise it through just the college email is, ‘Explore the world right here at NWC.”

The Intercultural Tuesday Lunch started six years ago.

“... A lot of people seem to think that the biggest cultural adjustment for international students is language — but food is just as big of an adjustment as language is,”  said Amanda Enriquez, the intercultural program manager. “One of the biggest reasons for homesickness is missing food from home and not finding the ingredients here. We noticed that students were struggling with eating and eating healthy.”

Dining staff first suggested the idea of the intercultural lunches.

“They were the ones who said, ‘Why don’t we let the students cook something from their country, offer it to the whole campus and the community?’” Enriquez said. “That way, it can become a way for the students not just to be able to cook something from home and maybe have that taste of the foods that they’ve been missing, but it’s also a way for them to share their culture to the campus and let the campus know about the international students we have here, where they’re from and what they have to offer.”

Enriquez herself has international roots, having been born in Zurich, Switzerland, before moving to Santiago, Chile, and eventually coming to America.

Last week, Turkmenistan was featured for the Intercultural Tuesday Lunch. Turkmenistan shares its southern border with northeastern Iran and northwest Afghanistan, and its western border with the Caspian Sea. It was part of the Soviet Union until that nation dissolved in 1991.

“A lot of people, they may have never heard of a country that’s called Turkmenistan,” Enriquez said. “If they have heard of it, they may not know where it’s located or what the traditional languages are or anything about it. This is just a way for us to at least transcend some of those cultural barriers, build that awareness and just educate.”

Last week’s cuisine was prepared by NWC freshmen Bossan Abdyyeva and Tair Masharipov, both of whom are from Turkmenistan. Abdyyeva made meat pies for the lunch, while Masharipov made pilaf (a rice dish featuring chicken, onions and carrots) and a salad.

Abdyyeva, who is from the Mary Region in southeastern Turkmenistan, chose to go to college in Wyoming because of its natural beauty.

“I was thinking of going to American University in Washington, D.C., but then I realized that I don’t like being around a lot of people,” Abdyyeva said. “I was just searching colleges — just like looking through — and when I saw that [NWC] was [near] the mountains and a little place, I’m like, ‘I really want to come here.’”

Abdyyeva arrived in Powell Aug. 11. So far, she has made the most of her time here, going camping, ATV riding and visiting Yellowstone National Park.

“I was so excited and I was thinking that it [Yellowstone] was a little place,” Abdyyeva said. “However, when I visited, I saw a lot of bison, deer and geysers erupting. I really love that place because nature’s so beautiful.”

Abdyyeva speaks three languages — Turkmen, Russian and English — and also has an understanding of Turkish. She’s majoring in international relations. Abdyyeva said that America is “100 percent different” than Turkmenistan. The Mary Region is very traditional, she said — for example, she was not allowed to wear blue jeans before coming to America. Abdyyeva also said that people in her homeland are more formal than Americans.

“I was so shocked they were so [accepting here],” Abdyyeva said. “In our country, we are [accepting] but still we are skeptical about new people. … When I came here, everyone was so nice and smiling. In our country, it’s kind of awkward to smile at each other because you don’t know them.”

Masharipov is from Türkmenabat, a city of more than 250,000 people that borders Uzbekistan. It’s the capital of the Lebap Province in eastern Turkmenistan. He arrived in Powell one day after Abdyyeva. He said that coming to NWC was a random choice and that he was considering Hutchinson and Garden City community colleges in Kansas, but chose NWC when the two Kansas schools did not provide sufficient financial aid.

Masharipov plans to eventually transfer to Cornell University in New York and major in engineering. But for now, he has fallen in love with Wyoming, as the mountains and plains remind him of home.

“I extremely love it,” he said, adding that he has a “crush” on Yellowstone National Park. When Masharipov visited the park, he got the chance to see bison and grizzly bears and was especially impressed with Great Prismatic Lake, Old Faithful and the Old Faithful Inn. He has also visited the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

Masharipov said that Wyoming is colder at this time of the year than his homeland.

“It’s really cold here in October, and in Turkmenistan it’s still warm,” Masharipov said. “Turkmenistan has a really dry, hot climate, but the thing is that sometimes it’s continental — so Wyoming and Turkmenistan has also some similarity in continental climate percents.”

Both Abdyyeva and Masharipov have found American foods that they enjoy. For Abdyyeva, it’s pizza. For Masharipov, it’s something sweeter.

“America’s really a melting pot in cultural aspects, so the thing is that there is a lot of [diverse foods] — Mexican food, Chinese, Japanese,” Masharipov said. “ … [But] cheesecake is awesome. Cheesecake and the cheeseburger, I really enjoy them.”

Another international student who assisted Abdyyeva and Masharipov in serving last Tuesday was Dylan Ding, who hails from Sichuan Province in southwestern China. He was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2015 in Great Britain and was going to go from there to Hawaii, but he ended up choosing NWC instead.

After a period of adjustment, he has come to enjoy life in northwest Wyoming.

“In the very beginning, it felt [like] Powell was pretty small — not much things going on,” Ding said. “But shortly after … I started making friends and there’s a lot of stuff — outdoor stuff — that you can never really experience in the city, so I really actually like it.”