In middle school I learned about how some words are not read the same way they’re spelled. Some of the letters are seen as silent letters, like the word “sign” where the ‘g’ is silent. That is kind of how I see the spicy chicken sandwich at Lowry, but the spicy is silent. You can blame it on the fact that I am an international student from Ethiopia. It is true: I grew up eating things that burnt my tongue and made my nose runny. However, it is the good kind of burn, one that serves a fresh reminder of home.
When I moved to Ohio for college, I realized a lot of things. One, ordering from Ethiopian restaurants is only an option for those who have cars and plan to drive over an hour to get it. Sadly, since I don’t exactly know how to drive or have a car, that wouldn’t work for me anyway. Secondly, whatever is considered spicy for most Americans was just ketchup for me, and that every time I ask for hot sauce in my food, I have to ask for three times as much as any domestic person would, with someone questioning “are you sure?” in between each request.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we are different on a cultural level in terms of what we eat. However, if Wooster is so persistent on international student diversity and bringing international students to campus to diversify the community, we should also be considering how to make them feel like home. I can tell you that unseasoned chicken and undercooked rice at the international station does not quite make me feel home.
Being homesick already makes it challenging to cross the barrier of culture shock. The environment is different, the people are different, the weather is different — let me rephrase that — very different. However, sometimes taste triggers good memories and eating your country’s food eases that anxiety and reminds us that the College of Wooster does remember international students, and that they are there to make us feel at home as well.
Moreover, it’s not just about opening an International Station in Lowry. There’s nothing international about white rice. International is a lot of cultures, and that’s why there should be different themes for every week where the food choices are not really dedicated towards a particular continent. If the rotation of food choices could expand its variety, it also accommodates ALL international students making us minority cultures just as represented. While Lowry already has routinely themed choices on the menu, it lacks a lot of diversity.
I am not asking that there should be Ethiopian food immediately, but diversifying our choices of what to eat would make the transition for international students here at the College much smoother. Additionally, that extra effort to make it really taste like home makes us know that to a certain extent there is a motive to invest in our comfort here at Wooster and that effort won’t be forgotten. So please, if you want to diversify our community, diversify our menu too.