Traditional Japanese Taiko drum beats resounded as students poured out of their classes. What was a barren concrete quad just hours earlier became a colorful, lively array of tables. Each individual booth showcased a different linguistic culture represented by the foreign language departments on campus, as well as local and on-campus groups that promote global awareness. Lines quickly formed to engage with the variety of crafts and heritage information and, perhaps most enthusiastically, to sample the diverse foods.
“What brought me in was the French club had cheese and I love cheese,” said Adrianna Ochoa, an American Sign Language student who volunteered alongside her professor, Justin Jackerson, at the ASL table in order to drum up more interest in the program. “Recently, I applied for a job interview and I said that I knew three languages … when I said American Sign Language they were like, ‘oh wow, that’s really interesting.’”
The Second Annual International Fair was part of PCC’s International Week, a collaborative effort by several groups on campus to celebrate cultures from around the world. The weeklong series brought several international film and music events to campus, as well as a panel on careers in foreign language.
“We are hoping that promoting global awareness to let students be aware of different cultures internationally,” said Cathy Wei, Chinese Language Program Lead and Pathways International Program Lead, who was a key organizer for the festival. “In addition to just knowing the culture, we also would like our students to be able to reach out to the community.
Among the 25 tables at the event was the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee, showcasing information about Pasadena’s newest Sister City, Dakar-Plateau, Senegal. The Study Abroad program was present, as well as Pathways, one of the events’ organizing groups. Their display detailed several cultures represented in the International Student Pathways program through a series of poster boards and a plate loaded with spring rolls.
“These three posters: Vietnam, Indonesia and Poland represent some of the countries that our students are actually from that attend PCC, Indonesia probably being the largest,” said Amanda Chan Grossman, a Pathways International Success Coach.
Among the language program booths, the Italian table offered assistance pronouncing key Italian phrases, as well as coffee and biscotti. The Chinese department’s table distributed egg rolls and became a temporary home to students practicing Chinese calligraphy on bright red paper. Meanwhile, the Spanish department’s table allowed students to learn to make “papel picado,” a traditional colorful decoration for cinco de mayo, while learning about the history and corporatization of the Mexican-American holiday. Spanish Instructor Viviana Hong stood at the other end of the table, greeting interested individuals with a smile and a churro.
“No matter what you end up doing in your life, whether that’s professionally or just travel, you never know when you might need a foreign language,” said Hong, who grew up speaking Korean and Spanish in Argentina. “When you learn a language, yes, you learn how to speak, but you also learn about how they think about things. There’s vocabulary that doesn’t exist in English, so you understand where they place value by learning how they speak and understand reality.”
Kodama Taiko, a Pasadena-based traditional Japanese drumming group, kicked off the entertainment portion of the event, followed by a Chinese Dynasty-inspired fashion show, featuring PCC students from the Chinese Language Program. Later students from the L.A. County High School for the Arts performed opera, a nod to Italian culture. Finally, the ever-present Salsa Club came to liven up the quad with Salsa music and dance.
“I think it gives us a glimpse not only of the languages we can learn, as well as things that are important in their culture,” said Claudia Valladares, a PCC student who stumbled upon the fair and was drawn to the music and dance. “Everyone has a different culture and maybe they might possibly combine in some way or another.”