Celebrating cultures around the world with International Club

Ciara White

The College of Lake County prioritizes the need for celebrating diversity, and one way they do that is through their International Club.

The club was reactivated in January 2021 by advisors Mahnia Nematollahi Mahani and Sam Nassiri, both teachers at the college.

The two advisors work to encourage cultural awareness and unity amongst students. They hope that this open, welcoming, and inclusive leads students to grow and value all sorts of global perspectives.

Photo via CLC’s website

Photo via CLC’s website

Members can suggest what topics are studied during meetings, where they discuss history, art, cultural celebrations, youth culture, top attractions, holidays, and events in various countries. They sometimes play games or watch movies related to the week’s topic.

This past month, they celebrated Persian New Year and held an online event for that.

For Nematollahi Mahani, her goal for the club is to have students gain a deeper understanding of the world, to realize cultural differences and appreciate them, and to have an opportunity to present and share their history or culture.

“By understanding other cultures, students connect, share memorable experiences, and cope with the ever-changing world,” Nematollahi Mahani said.

Nematollahi Mahani commented that her favorite part of the club–although she likes every aspect–would have to be seeing students come together and learn from each other in a culturally responsive environment.

Mahnia Nematollahi Mahani

Mahnia Nematollahi Mahani

“When they discuss various topics, I realize that they, including myself, are connecting with awareness. By saying ‘connect,’ I mean a relationship that is the outcome of understanding other cultures, ethnicities, and races. We need to go further than talking about ‘the weather,’” Nematollahi Mahani said.

It is crucial, especially today, to understand and care for one another despite any differences, and Nematollahi Mahani promotes this same sentiment.

“We live in a multicultural world, and understanding other cultures promotes awareness and reduces racial, ethnic division and stereotypes. Many reactions and judgments arise from misunderstanding other cultures,” Nematollahi Mahani said

The solution, according to CLC’s International Club, is education and compassion.

“Learning about different cultures helps us understand why people do things differently, sympathize with their situation, and have compassion toward them. Through understanding other cultures, communication becomes more manageable,” Nematollahi Mahani said.

Nematollahi Mahani offered a compelling and personal example, where she mentioned that she enjoys Mariachi music. She admires the performances–the music, the clothing, etc.–and sees beauty in it, yet didn’t know much about Spanish culture itself, nor the significance and history of Mariachi music.

Wanting to learn about cultures different from your own and being willing to be educated is the first step of the process. Still, Nematollahi Mahani highlights the significance of hearing about it first-hand rather than from the internet.

“[It] is possible to Google Mariachi and learn about its foreground. However, I will not understand it deeply until a Mexican explains why it is essential in their culture, how they understand it and connect with it, why it survived from the eighteenth century onwards. This understanding is where cultural awareness happens,” Nematollahi Mahani said.

Once learning has returned to being on campus, International Club hopes to plan at least two off-campus trips each semester. The first would be a multicultural trip where the group would visit various cities or cities, and the second would be to a museum. All in all, the International Club has a lot of plans for upcoming events.

As a final note, Nematollahi Mahani encourages all students to join–or at least visit–this club during their time at CLC, hoping that it will help anybody learn and experience other cultures.

“They will see value in [those cultures] and become more compassionate about those with different cultural heritage. This Club is where we mentally grow together, emotionally support each other, and help each other stay strong,” Nematollahi Mahano said.

The club meets every Thursday from 1-2:30 p.m.

Students and staff can find more information about the club on the CLC website, and those interested can email further questions to either of the advisors at [email protected] or [email protected]

CIARA WHITE