UH Moment

UH Moment: “Cultural Connections”

How would you describe American culture?  It's a question being considered in one UH program.  Listen to this week's UH Moment.

It’s a good question, especially if you’re an international student trying to understand your new surroundings.

A UH pilot program called “Cultural Connections” brings Tier One scholars  together with international students from the UH Language and Culture Center to talk about culture bumps—situations sparked when cultures collide.  

Merlin Jacob, freshman biology major, Tier One Scholar and Culture Guide at UH“Culture bumps block communication and cause a lot of misunderstanding versus trying to talk it through,” said Merlin Jacob, a freshman biology major, Tier One scholar and Culture Guide.  “I moved to the U.S. four years ago, so I was interested in being a guide because I wanted to help somebody else through it.”

“Cultural Connections” is an intercultural communications program that brings international students together twice a week for five weeks.   With the help of guides like Merlin, the international students, who are perfecting their English language skills so they can perform university level work,  discuss perceptions, communication styles and culture specific information, with an eye and ear toward our common humanity.  

“Culture bumps are words or situations that may mean one thing in our own native culture, but something completely different in American society,” she said.

For example, students from Saudi Arabia were confounded by the response they received when they wanted to show respect to professors in the classroom.  

“In my country, you just sit with your arms folded, but in the United States, if you fold your arms you look like your are rejecting or blocking,” one student said.  

Another student was surprised by the classroom attire.

“Here on campus, the clothes are different.  In my country, we have to wear formal clothes in the classroom, even if it is hot, but here we see different clothes,” he said.  

“Cultural Connections” will be offered in the summer and fall.

Cultural connections is part of what’s happening at the university of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.