Asian Culture at UT
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While the Asian community represents only 2 percent of the student population at the University of Toledo and are often clumped into one generalized category, the unique student groups on campus reflect the diversity and culture of each individual facet within the community.
One of these groups is the Chinese Student and Scholars Association. Yuan Hu, the president of CSSA, said that the organization is all about supporting and providing resources for newly arrived Chinese students, scholars and their families, all while promoting the culture and building connections with other student organizations.
Hu also said that it is important for students to understand other cultures in order to get to know them better. Cultural differences in how people relate to one another can often lead to misconceptions or misunderstandings, according to Hu.
“Chinese people are very friendly — they like to make friends with other people, but sometimes they are shy — it is because of the culture,” Hu said. “Sometimes American students think we are silent and do not have much eye contact with the other person. It is not because we are impolite, it is because of Chinese culture. We are trying to adapt to American culture.”
In order to promote their culture, CSSA hosts several events throughout the year both to celebrate within the community as well as to raise awareness with those who may not be familiar with Chinese culture.
“We assist Confucius Institute to hold some culture events. We also have our own culture activities, Chinese Spring Festival gala, carnival or other events,” Hu said.
In addition to interacting with student organizations, language is an integral and defining part of any culture. At UT, there are currently six Japanese instructors, one of them being Joseph Hara, the Director of the Japanese Studies Program.
Hara was born and raised in Japan and came to America about 45 years ago.
“I have been teaching the language and culture at UT for the last 26 years,” Hara said. “[The] study abroad program in Japan that I developed has been continuously active for the last 17 years and we have 26 UT graduates working in Japan today as the result.”
Students in Hara’s classes have always been interested in the cultural aspect of what he teaches, which is why Hara said that he tries to incorporate as many aspects of Japanese culture in the classroom as he can.
“I have Japanese Culture and Civilization courses every semester and they are always full in enrollment. It is an indication of how much students are interested in learning about the culture,” Hara said. “I usually cover not only historical aspects on cultural development such as diet, fashion, festivals, religions and different view point based on philosophical background.”
Hara said there are many non-Asian students who participate in things like CSSA and take the Japanese language courses, whether it’s to gain more knowledge of the culture, or to learn a skill that will increase their career opportunities.
“Students who are taking Japanese language courses as well as culture courses are from all areas of disciplines. I would say a good number of students have some exposure to Japanese anime before showing their interest in the Japanese culture. Also a majority of students seem to think of future job opportunities after graduation,” Hara said.
Hara said that he feels that the Japanese culture is well represented on campus, due to the fact that the Japanese section of the Foreign Language Department is the second largest behind Spanish.
Hu also feels this way about the Chinese culture, and all cultures in general.
“We can see different culture events in every semester. UT provides them as much as it can, it promotes every culture event, it makes us feel at home,” Hu said.