Last Friday, UTM’s International Education Centre in collaboration with education studies held their second Language Conversation Circle session. These peer-led, drop-in, interactive conversation sessions are organized bi-weekly to increase cultural awareness in students. The sessions promote a fun and relaxed environment, including CCR recognition if students attend four circles. For this session, the Language Conversation Circle’s theme focused on food.

Filled with fun ice-breakers, group activities, and games, Language Conversation Circles aim to create interactions among students, and allow them to meet new people from different linguistic and diverse backgrounds.

“Each session has a different theme. We discussed the meaning behind each other’s names in the first session, as it was introductory. Each session has a theme that encourages students to share their experiences and languages,” said Hannah de Haan, a volunteer with the IEC.

The second session kicked off with short introduction of the students, and a game called “Four Corners.” Each corner of the room had one poster: strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. One of the volunteers would show a statement on the PowerPoint Presentation, and students would go to the respective corner. All statements were food related and ranged from “food is an important aspect in my culture,” “is your culture defined by a particular food,” and “I am a picky eater.”

Students would trickle to different corners with each question, and some would tell a story behind their answer.

“Food is a great way to showcase your culture, and showing where you are from, showing the types of roots that you were brought up with,” said Ryan Oliveria, a third-year computer science student.

Students shared the stories behind the food etiquettes specific to their cultures, and learnt how every culture had a shared theme: eating together with family.

Talking about the differences in food at home in Jamaica versus in Toronto, Justine Lyn, a fourth-year history student, narrated the story behind mint tea. “When I go to a Jamaican restaurant here, I will find the food of my community, but often it’s not what I remember when I visited Jamaica. There is no comparison. In Jamaica, you would just reach your hand out of the window, pull a mint leaf and you have fresh mint tea. And [when] you have mint tea here it’s so different.”

“There are these things that are ingrained in me, in terms of our habits, and it’s hard to separate that from my cultural identity. My family always eats together, and we [use] hands, forks or spoons accordingly, and it never struck me that that’s not always the case with every family. Sometimes it’s not about the food, but the people you are with,” said Sebastian Alvarez, fourth-year environmental science student.

After a series of questions, and a mini-story sharing session, the Language Conversation Circle played a “Guess the Candy” game. Every student was given a couple of candies from different parts of the world. They all took turns eating that candy and guessing both the flavour and the place it was made in.

Students ate an assortment of candies including White Rabbit, Japanese Yuzu candy, Pulse candy, and many candies with unique flavours, from mango, guava and durian.

Haan concluded the session by announcing the potential themes of the next Language Conversation Circle: video games or music. The next session will be held on Friday, November 2nd.