One of Pepperdine’s newest — and largest — clubs is attempting to dispel rumors that certain students keep elephants for pets, as well as other cultural misconceptions.
The Pepperdine Inter-national Club (PIC), now in its second semester, was established to unite international and domestic students to promote understanding and awareness of cultural differences on the Pepperdine campus.
“The club is not just international students,” said Sienna Hopkins, assistant director of International Student Services and PIC adviser. “Our goal is really to incorporate international students into the American culture, and also teach Americans about international culture.”
Co-presidents Christine Sousa and Prosper Acquah serve as visible examples of students working together to promote cross-cultural understanding.
Sousa, a junior political science and English and rhetoric double major from La Canada, Calif., serves as the club’s domestic president. Acquah, a senior accounting major from Ghana, is the international president. Together with Hopkins, these two students saw the need for such an organization as PIC to exist on campus and were instrumental in its founding.
Ten percent of the Seaver College student body is international. As home away from home to students representing over 80 nations, it is not surprising that some culture shock exists at Pepperdine.
According to freshman Nazreen Rensburg, an en-gineering major from Gweru, Zimbabwe, international students are warned about experiencing culture shock, but little can be done to prepare for how big the difference really is.
“I found culture shock since the time I got here,” Rensburg said. “A lot more than I expected. First semester was really bad.”
However, after becoming a member of PIC, Rensburg said that she became both more comfortable with Pepperdine and domestic students, and plans to return to Pepperdine next year.
Acquah told a similar story of a girl who was having difficulty acclimating to American culture, and even considered dropping out of school here before she became a member of the club.
“Because of the club, now she’s not going to do that,” Acquah said.
According to Hopkins, problems with international students experiencing shock upon being thrust unprepared into the American educational system can be exacerbated by the reality of just how little some domestic students know about other nations.
Hopkins cites the example of an international student who was asked whether he had an elephant as his household pet as the sort of lack of cultural understanding that is characteristic of some Americans.
“As Americans in general,” Hopkins said, “we see what we see on TV, and don’t really see what’s behind it. International students come from uncommon cultures, but have the common bond of being in a foreign place.”
Through cultural dinners, biweekly meetings, service projects and other recreational Los Angeles-area outings, the club has tried to foster the development of communication and friendship among its 220 members.
“It was a really good way for (club members) to interact and get to know each other,” Sousa said of the club events. “It was really rewarding for them to make those friendships.”
One favorite outing among club members was a trip to see the taping of the “Monica’s Boot” episode of “Friends,” which aired in mid-December.
Others enjoyed a cultural dinner held at a Westwood Indian café. “It was totally spontaneous and fun,” said Rensburg of the dinner.
Tentatively set for Feb. 13, a multicultural fair sponsored by the club will feature international games, food and music from a variety of nations.
On March 20, the club will host the second annual Keeping Inter-nationals Connected and Kicking (KICK) soccer tournament, featuring co-mpeting teams of international, domestic, Pepperdine Inter-national Programs and graduate school students.
January 24, 2002