Learning American culture through tailgate and football

KOLR10 Daybreak

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Whether you are a football fan or not, the sport., the food, the tailgating, all that comes with it are familiar sounds. But, these are traditions unique to the United States.

In other countries, though, it’s a coin toss.

“Uh, no, we don’t play football in Malaysia,” said Yuganesh Gunalan, a grad student at MSU.

The International Programs office at Missouri State University is tailgating at the Bears football games as an opportunity to showcase its students’ cultures on campus, but also using its home-field advantage to share American culture with them.

“It’s my chance to get out of the office, get out of my classrooms and meet people in a more informal setting and get to know people over drinks, over burgers,” he said. “That’s how our international students can learn about American culture. What does it truly mean to be an American? What are the cultural values? Especially being in Missouri, the heart of America. So I think that’s where it all starts.”

This year Missouri State is home to 1,600 international students, representing more than 90 countries. The International Programs office sets up at the student tailgate to allow for some face-to-face, real-life immersion.

“Of course, we can talk about it. But exposing students to people of diverse and different perspectives is what gives it its power. It challenges your beliefs, how you see things, how they see things. And then, it can be impactful down the road,” said Daezia Smith, leadership program specialist.

One of the pillars of Missouri State’s Public Affairs mission is cultural competence. And Smith says it’s about how well you execute your game-plan.

“Having the courses and having those things is important, but that peer-to-peer interaction and having that chance to engage with a person makes it a full-fledged, well-rounded experience,” she said.

So far, it’s a successful handoff.

“Coming to the U.S. I didn’t know a thing about football. And over the past four years, I’ve learned a ton about football,” Gunalan said. “And obviously, go Chiefs, right? You’re from Missouri; you gotta love them.”

And in true American fashion, the tailgate is as good as a touchdown.

“Oh, I love it. I look forward to tailgate from Monday,” Gunalan said.

The International Programs office has more events coming up, including the Tour of the Globe on Nov. 5. It’s free to attend.

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