The IC strives to foster cultural understanding
A look at multiculturalism on Grounds through the Lorna Sundberg International Center
Second-year College student Makayla Palazzo is studying economics thousands of miles away from her home in Japan, and sometimes, she says, the University can feel like a distant place.
The Lorna Sundberg International Center aims to help students like Palazzo by bringing together the University's international population.
“As soon as you walk through the door [of the IC], everyone is foreign.” Palazzo said. “Breaking these barriers and stereotypes allows people to accept a person outside his or her nationality as well as enable someone to respect that person’s background in a unique way.”
The IC building was donated in the early 1900s by the family of former Engineering School Dean William M. Thornton. In 1972, the house became a haven for international students and visitors. Today, it is a division of the International Studies Office with the goal of promoting the University’s global education initiatives.
The IC offers various free socials, cooking classes, cultural events and English-learning programs in hopes of advancing cultural understanding and tolerance around Grounds and in the greater Charlottesville community.
“I really like [the IC] because it is open to community members [of Charlottesville] as well as students and faculty of the University,” fourth-year Engineering student Alisha Geldert said. “We get a really cool mix of people ranging from families [to] students. Everyone goes to meet new people and learn new things.”
But getting students to utilize the IC's resources can be an uphill battle.
“It is important for people to know about different cultures in order to gain a greater appreciation for multiculturalism," Geldert said. "[Cultural knowledge] allows you to accept different people and ideas. [We already] have a lot of culture weeks, so from my perspective, it is more of a matter of participation, not necessarily holding more events.”
Part of the center's overall mission to break down silos between different cultural and ethnic groups and organizations around Grounds. The abundance of culturally-focused groups on Grounds, Geldert said, can sometimes inhibit multicultural unity.
“I think [cultural associations] are great to have, but in some cases, they self-segregate cultures rather than stimulate talk about them,” Geldert said. “This is where I think the International Center plays a unique role by bringing various cultures together to be a center of multiculturalism.”
Hosting events for the broad spectrum of the University's international student body helps to break down these barriers, Palazzo said.
“I have met people from Germany, China and Korea and it is so nice to gain other peoples’ perspective on Charlottesville, [and] on their own countries,” she said.