Going GlobalBU students immerse themselves in other cultures
By Claire Moncla
Photograph by Rod Aydelotte
Okra soup and pounded yams, fried plantain and moi moi. Sound
familiar? Probably not. For the students in the Global Community,
however, eating exotic cuisine like these Nigerian dishes is just a
part of their routine. They gather for community dinners each month on
a Sunday night to explore food from all over the world.
Begun in 2008, the Global Community is a new presence at Baylor that is bridging the gap between learning about another culture and experiencing it.
Janet Norden, Global Community director and instructor of Spanish
and methodology, said she had the idea for the Global Community in
1992. “What I really wanted was a language house,” she explained.
Norden wanted a center with language classes, offices, immersion
residences, a technical center, forums for global conferences, and
theaters for cultural performances.
But she had trouble constructing a strategic plan that Baylor would
adopt and her fellow staff members would support. “Everything has to
originate in a department,” Norden said. She tried to rally the other
professors in the Modern Foreign Languages Department to build the
community with her, but no steps were made. Finally, she gained support
from the Center of International Education and a funding opportunity
from then-Dean of Student Learning and Engagement Frank Shushok ’91. He
proposed that Norden start an Engaged Learning Group (ELG), a type of
seminar course introduced to campus in 2007. ELGs are interdisciplinary
groups of students that take three semesters of one-credit seminars
focusing on an issue or discipline. Students who participated in
Norden’s Global Community ELG would receive a three-hour social science
But Norden wanted the Global Community to encompass more than
interactive classes. So in fall 2008, she started an ELG and a Living
& Learning Center (LLC), which together form the Global Community.
LLCs are academic communities composed of students who are interested
in the same field of study—such as fine arts, entrepreneurship, or
computer science. Students participating in an LLC live in the same
section of a residence hall and learn together through classes, events,
The Global Community LLC has forty-four students who represent
thirteen countries. They live on the second and third floors of Brooks
Flats in ten different language suites, which ideally contain one
native speaker and three students interested in a language. However,
not all suites contain a native speaker; some are composed of students
who are simply interested in trying to learn a language. In the suites,
students speak Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Khmer (Cambodian),
Korean, Thai, or Vietnamese. Students try to practice total immersion,
speaking only the suite language when they’re in their residence to
eventually become proficient. Lacey Murphy—who grew up in China, but
lives in the Vietnamese suite—says that she and her roommates label
every item in their apartment in Chinese and Vietnamese.
The four women in the German suite—Celia Heidbrier, Katelyn Price,
Allie Smith, and native speaker Natascha Mellis—have a different
approach to immersion. “It’s a progressive thing. You are supposed to
get to the point where you speak German all the time,” said Heidbrier,
a sophomore German major. The girls agree that lingo groups are what
help language learning the most during what they say is a step-by-step
immersion process. “Students meet once a week with two German
professors and just have small talk for an hour in German,” Heidbrier
said of her lingo group. Lingo groups in French, German, Spanish,
Korean, and Chinese are offered by partnering faculty members in the
Modern Foreign Languages Department, and are a requirement of Global
Community LLC members. However, because lingo groups are offered by
volunteer professors, not all the languages spoken in the language
suites have lingo groups.
Although Heidbrier, Price, Smith, and Mellis like their personal
language suite, they also enjoy involvement in the Global Community as
a whole. “I like the global dinners, seeing people who are really
interested in getting to know other cultures. And I like talking about
my experiences living in Germany,” said Mellis, a freshman biochemistry
major from Dusseldorf, Germany. “Every Monday, there is also something
called Kafeestunde, where all German students can come and talk in
German,” she added.
Smith, a pre-nursing major and German minor, said she likes the
LLC’s non-credit course where she says students learn about other
cultures through reading, writing, and research assignments. The class
also hosts a variety of speakers. “The talks are on areas that are from
the book, but help us get a more worldly perspective,” Smith said. The
course centers on the book Three Cups of Tea, which describes mountaineer Greg Mortenson’s humanitarian efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Collaboration is also a part of the Global Community. “We learn
about German, but we are also exposed to lots of other cultures,” said
Price, a sophomore medical humanities major. The students say they also
benefit in their German and English classes because of collaboration.
“Natascha certainly helps because she is our native speaker,” Heidbrier
said. “And I peer-edit Natascha’s English papers,” Smith added.
“It’s just good to get involved, and the LLC is a good bridge for
that,” Heidbrier said. And when it comes to getting involved in a
community, she pointed out, “It’s not really the place, but the people.”
To read the Student View, go to Student View: Going Global.