RCSJ’s ESL students celebrate cultures through food

RCSJ English as a Second Language (ESL) students gathered through the language of food on Jan. 9 during a campus international culture celebration

Rowan College of South Jersey English as a Second Language students promoted understanding and communication through the language of food and sharing on Thursday, Jan. 9, during a campus celebration of international cultures.

Twenty-five students representing 12 different countries, including Argentina, El Salvador, Egypt, Mali, Guatemala, Iraq, Dominican Republic, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and the United States shared artifacts, pictures and music as they enjoyed the cuisine of different countries. Passports — with maps and common phrases — were handed out containing information about each of the countries. The annual event was coordinated by the college’s ESL instructors to recognize the many cultures and countries that take part in the program.

“We love hosting this for students because it gives us an opportunity to really celebrate everyone’s countries and their cultures,” ESL instructor Nancy Nolan said. “It is always such an enjoyable day for both the students and faculty, as it is a chance for them to practice their skills and get over any shyness that they may sometimes have. We always try to provide them with confidence and support in the program, but with this event, the students are able to practice meeting new people and feel more comfortable asking and answering questions afterwards.”

By the end of the event, most of the students were talking on camera and showing everyone their favorite cultural traditions. Lucas Aguilera, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, displayed the common practice of sharing “mate” tea between family and friends. A charismatic personality hoping to advance in graphic design, Aguilera discussed his journey here and his plans to run in the upcoming New York Marathon. “Everyone in my country is very friendly, so when I came here to join my wife, I immediately wanted to learn English to be able to talk to people.”

Xiaofen Zhing, a newlywed from Guizhou, China, demonstrated traditional Chinese writing that she has studied, and helped volunteers practice. “This program is very good for me because I have been learning how to speak English, which will help me in becoming a sports or language teacher,” said Zhing, a Washington Township resident who received her master’s degree in China for Chinese traditional sports.

“Through the ESL program, I have made many friends and have learned how to communicate with other people,” Zhing continued. “I love it here, and even though learning English has not been the easiest, I have learned a lot.”

For more information about the college’s ESL program, visit RCSJ.edu/Workforce.