This semester, international students have a weekly opportunity to ask questions about American culture, dating, partying and drinking as part of Student Health and Wellness’s new program, Fishbowl Fridays.
“Fishbowl Fridays are part of a larger, ongoing university-wide initiative to prevent sexual misconduct on campus,” Matt McMahon, sexual violence prevention specialist and health and wellness promotion staff member, stated in an email.
He said the Student Wellness and Health Promotion is working with OISS to identify the best methods for teaching sexual education and sexual misconduct prevention in culturally sensitive ways.
Students can submit anonymous questions into a fishbowl throughout the week and Health and Wellness staff provide answers at meetings on Fishbowl Fridays. The event is held in partnership with the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at its office on Kent Way.
Before the event, students fill out a confidential survey to better gauge what questions will be asked during the event. Questions on the survey include country of origin, how the student would prefer to spend a Friday or Saturday night and how the student learned about American culture before arriving.
The university recently hired McMahon as the second sexual violence prevention specialist. This position focuses on underrepresented groups, including international students. Because this work is newly implemented on campus, Fishbowl Fridays will serve to gauge what students’ needs and interests are regarding dating, relationships, partying and culture. McMahon said there is no current research on victimization and sexual violence specific to international students.
“I liked it because I get to practice my English and I get to meet new people,” sophomore international relations major Yixin Zhang said after the event. “Before, I never thought about today’s topic of dating [in cultural context]. I wasn’t aware of all of the cultural differences.”
Aleesha Smith, a conditional admissions program mentor, has worked with over 250 international students through the English Language Institute. Smith said creating more dialogue would improve the event.
“The students should be talking out to Americans and finding out these things, it shouldn’t be a presentation,” Smith said. “What we really need is events that are well-promoted that get Americans as well as international students go to.”
According to McMahon, the event is open to all students, not just international, in the hopes students can learn from one another and develop new friendships.
“Students aren’t confused about what American culture is like, they’re confused about how to be part of American culture,” Smith said.