The room was buzzing with lively conversation as nearly 70 students gathered to attend the Heritage Meets Heritage event on October 27, organized by MIT Global Studies and Languages and funded by the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). co-sponsored ) and Hermanas Unidas.
Pupils participated in small group discussions on a variety of topics, dealing with the diversity of cultural heritage (their favourites, traditions, holidays, music) and issues such as identity of the language of origin, multilingualism and multiculturalism, perceptions of words in different languages and nuances of communication walked in different languages and cultures.
The Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Agustin Rayo, made a surprise visit, engaged in discussions and then gave a short impromptu speech on the importance of embracing one’s multiculturalism, celebrating the diversity of cultural heritage at MIT and seeing it as a place where we can all find a sense of belonging.
Games, jokes and quizzes were met with laughter and applause. Trivia questions included:
● Where is the world’s largest Japanese community outside of Japan? (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
● Which African country has Spanish as an official language? (Equatorial Guinea)
● What language do the Amish speak? (a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch)
● Which country has the largest francophone population in Asia? (Vietnam)
The event ended with a tasting of food from around the world: empanadas, steamed bao buns, pão de queijo, baklava, madeleines, pocky and more. An international music playlist served as a lively accompaniment to the talks. Students also received a souvenir bag.
In their feedback after the event, the students reported that they enjoyed the opportunity to meet other language learners, make new friends, participate in reflective conversations and taste international food. First-year student Michelle Wang said the event was a welcome change, allowing her to “sit and enjoy my time at MIT without the pressure of classes and assignments.” Commenting on the group discussions, Junior Alayo O Oloko said, “The discussion questions were also very interesting and many of them I hadn’t given much thought to before.” Senior Toomas Tennisberg enjoyed meeting people from different cultures. He also enjoyed the games and trivia questions. “It was fun learning new little things like the third most spoken language in Massachusetts (Portuguese) and the location of the oldest continuously operating library in the world (Lisbon).” Sophomore Hazel Mann said, “The food was delicious and I was very happy that i got to eat food from different cultures. I really liked the baklava.”
The organizing team for the event was led by Min-Min Liang, Chinese Lecturer, and included other Global Languages lecturers, including Mariana San Martín, Spanish Lecturer; Nilma Dominique, Portuguese lecturer; and Maria Khotimsky, Lecturer in Russian. The event was truly an opportunity to celebrate cultural diversity and have fun learning from each other. In response to student feedback, Global Languages plans to make Heritage Meets Heritage an annual tradition.