A taste of other cultures
The connection to host monthly international dinners
Studying abroad is not an option for everyone. To make international students feel more
comfortable and to introduce students at Grand Valley State University to other cultures, the
Connection, partnering with the Padnos International Center, will once again play host to monthly
“It’s a monthly opportunity for international students to have food from home and also share their
culture with other students,” said Kate Stoetzner, the program coordinator.
The first dinner took place Sept. 15 and featured cuisine from Chile. The dinner was organized by
international student Karen Salazar Valdés and her mentor, Kate Rasch. This is the first year that
mentors are helping international students plan the dinners.
The program, which is in its third year, was initiated a few years ago after complaints arose from
international students who wanted the Connection to offer more diverse meal options.
“The student and mentor bring a recipe from (the student’s) home,” Stoetzner said. “They meet up
with a chef and discuss how to get ingredients, figure out what (dishes go) together.”
The collaboration does not stop after the first day in the kitchen.
“The day of (the dinner), the students taste test the dishes to make sure that they are prepared
correctly,” Stoetzner said.
Music from the country is played during the dinner and informational sheets of the country being
featured are handed out to interested students. At Sunday’s dinner, Chilean folk songs were played
in the background. In the past, students have shown videos of their homeland and featured dances
have been performed.
“(The dinners are) a small representation of a culture other than your own,” Stoetzner said. “You get
to know the international students. Food is an important part of everyone’s culture; it’s a good
thing to share.”
This year, dinners from Poland, South Korea, Cameroon, Spain, China, Haiti and India will be
featured. Students can use their meal plan to purchase meals.
“People should come,” Stoetzner said. “It’s interesting, and the food is good.”
The first dinner of the year featured pastel de papas, a type of Chilean potato pie. For dessert, rice
pudding was served.
Valdés is originally from the Chilean city Concepción and will be studying at GVSU for the fall
semester. Though she will only be here for one semester, Valdés already knows she wants to
return. “My university has an agreement with (GVSU),” she said. “It was the best option to study
abroad, and to help me improve my English.”
To select the recipes that would be used for the meal, both Valdés and Rasch chose a dish that
would be representative of an average Chilean dinner. Rasch is familiar with Chilean culture, having
previously studied abroad there.
“The main idea (of the dinners) is to learn and get to know the typical culture,” Valdés said.
“(Students) get to know about the culture, and they will want to go (to Chile) to study or to visit.”
For more information on studying abroad, visit www.gvsu.edu/studyabroad.