BY MIKE JAMES
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS Picture a cafeteria full of sixth-graders learning a traditional Indian dance, courtesy of Marshall University student Parinaya Joshi.
If your mental image includes whirling about and fumbling with newly-learned hand gestures, accompanied by massive giggle fits, you can imagine the scene at Russell Middle School Friday when a group of international students from Marshall University shared their own cultures and stories.
The Marshall students, from Thailand, China and India, spent much of the day at the middle school, showing pictures, playing games and eating lunch with the sixth-graders.
“Students here must know what it is to be global. They need to know about the world around us,” said Rohan Paktar, who came to Marshall from Mumbai to study biomechanics.
The students are at the right age to develop a better understanding of global relations, he said. “They are very young now, but they are going to meet a lot of people outside America and they need to know.”
The visit meshes with the novel Russell sixth-graders are studying in Andrea Ferguson’s English class, and what they heard Friday would assist them in exploring its theme of friendship across cultural barriers, Ferguson said.
“Same Sun Here,” co-written by Kentucky author Silas House and Indian-American author Neela Vaswani, tells the story of a Kentucky coal miner’s son and an immigrant Indian girl in New York City who become pen pals.
Learning about and meeting people from disparate cultures “opens them up to other experiences they can’t get in our little bubble,” Ferguson said.
They are further expanding their cultural awareness by corresponding with their own pen pals.
Bella Tarazon connected with a pen pal from Canada.
The letters they have exchanged have kindled an interest in traveling. “I kind of want to go there and see the nature, like whether it snows a lot,” she said. Brendon Borders’ pen pal has awakened a similar interest. “They tell us about everything there and you kind of want to go experience it,” he said.
The same kind of curiosity led Paktar to study at Marshall. “I was interested in the history and the culture of the university and the town,” he said.
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Brailey Oney, Emory Kirk and Mallory Allen practice a traditional Indian dance.
Thai student Sarakorn Trirattananuwong sits with students in a game of Duck Duck Goose.
Marshall University student Parinaya Joshi demonstrates the gestures that are part of the Indian dance.
MIKE JAMES | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT