Students embrace diversity through new Intercultural Association

Logo+for+Intercultural+Association

Logo for Intercultural Association

Many new students at Suffolk University can be overwhelmed by the variety of cultural clubs and organizations on campus. Recognizing that the university prides itself on diversity, some students decided to  embrace the differences that compose the community – sparking the idea for the recently founded Intercultural Association (ICA).

Frensi Thanasi, a first-year student from Albania, gathered a few fellow peers to create the group.The business economics major is now the president of the new association.

Thanasi, along with her two e-board members Nathan Siket and Megan Jackson, found enjoyment in learning about each other’s different backgrounds and comparing their likeness.

“We are from all different upbringings but we had a lot in common,” said Jackson, the club’s secretary. “Nate and I bonded over how he’s Spanish but I speak Portuguese and he always says that I say things wrong, even though I just say them in Portuguese instead of Spanish.”

After recruiting senior Brandon Wong, the president of the Asian-American Association (AAA) to serve as the treasurer, the ICA was formed.

“We bonded over our similarities and our differences,” said Siket, ICA vice president. “We were like, well we already kind of do this as friends, what if we like made this into a club? And then Frensi texted us one day and we were like ‘Oh my God, that is like a perfect thing to turn into a club.’”

The ICA is an opportunity for students with different cultures and experiences to come together and make new friends.

“The purpose of the Intercultural Association is to provide educational, social and recreational opportunities for international and local students to interact with one another, to explore and share their cultural heritage and to build connections with the university and its communities,” said Jackson.

Membership is not limited to any specific major, grade or cultural background. The executive board of the ICA understands how intimidating it can be to join a specific cultural club, as one may feel like they must be a part of that specific culture to join.

“That is a common misconception here. If you see a group of students that are of the same background you assume, ‘Oh I can’t be a part of that group,’” said Wong.

While there are 20 cultural student organizations on campus, the four students formed this group with the goal of breaking down barriers and providing a community for all students.

“It can be very uncomfortable to join a club whose main topic is something you are not familiar with or something you want to know more about,” said Siket. “We wanted to make a space that embraced everything and invited everyone.”

They have a few events planned for this semester, including a night of networking co-sponsored by AAA. The goal of the event is to make new connections. The date is still tentative, but is set to occur sometime this month.

The first general meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 6 during the activities period, in room 929 in the Sawyer building. The day will consist of introductions and a meet-and-greet. Meetings are not mandatory and the schedule is very flexible. The ICA hopes for a good turnout at their inaugural meeting, stressing again that the club is open to all Suffolk students.

“It is the absolute safest space to practice your social skills as far as meeting new people. Especially for freshmen, it is a huge transition … moving to a new city and suddenly you might be in a totally different country for a lot of the students here and you might not know what’s the best way to approach meeting strangers,” said Jackson. “It’s a new phenomenon for a lot of people. This should be a place where that is totally cool.”