FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over theworldwho welcome new international visitors, help to organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Nhung!
Name: Nhung Le
FIUTS Facilitator Since: Winter 2015
My name is Nhung and I’ve been living in Seattle for 4 years. I love the city for its RAIN! which most Seattleites find depressing! Coming from a hot and humid place like Vietnam, I personally find this amazing city resonate extremely well with me. I love volunteering and helping those in need. I mostly volunteer at Buddhist temples at a very young age; I love the rich and deep philosophy. Besides volunteering, I love to hike and camp in the serene nature. I also enjoy meddling in the kitchen, especially with Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cuisines.
As you can see, I come from a foreign county that uses English as a second language, so I can’t prevent the English barriers when I communicate with the native speakers. I had a hard time adapting to the new environment in Seattle. At first, I found it was so depressing to live far away from my parents, and having to use an entirely new language to communicate with other people. Sometimes people didn't seem to catch what I was trying to say. As time flies, I came to apply the important life lesson that sharing is receiving. I met a diverse group of friends and shared my stories. We came to strengthen our friendships and became closer as I listened to their journey as well. Never give up, keep continuing standing on your feet! I enhance my life skills, meet more wonderful friends from other countries and have the honor to learn their cultures.
Nhung, center, with FIUTS friends
What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?
I cherish the opportunities FIUTS has given me. I enjoy learning new skills and experiencing new things and FIUTS has blessed me with the opportunities for both. Here, I have further developed my leadership as facilitator. I get to go to events I have never been through, all of which were eye-opening. I further learned to better organize, to time manage effectively, when in need to compromise for group events and work in a team cohesively to produce a great outcomes. I love being a facilitator, for I may apply my overall experience for a job and work in the near future. So I will make every effort and continue to strive for the best. This is the golden opportunity FIUTS blessed me with!
Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator
I have joined FIUTS for one quarter. In this time, there are two events that I find most treasurable. The first is participating in an event learning about the history of wine making in Seattle! It was a privilege and a joy to facilitate such vibrant group. YAY! The second and perhaps my favorite event up to date is being among facilitators for CulturalFest. Witnessing the diverse arrays of ethnic performances was what made this experience so unique that it is unforgettable! From Irish Tap Dancing to contemporary breakdance and much much more, fantastic performances opened my worldview to a greater understanding. Thank You FIUTS!
Nhung, right, at the CulturalFest ticket booth
Tips for peer facilitators
My advice is be yourself, and don't be panic! There's plenty of leadership experience that awaits. Everyone has gone through what you've been through. When I first joined FIUTS I was anxious and knew only one person. The situation can feel overwhelming at first, but as I'm sure with most new events when one must face the "fish out of water" experience every now and then. I continue to attend more events and get to know more people and expand my connections. This is just the starting point so hold tight because it will get more epic! Stay positive and smile and be sure to connect with friendly facilitators that resonate with you. Everything will be alright!
More Facilitator Corner posts:
Every quarter, FIUTS is lucky enough to have student interns who help us with all kinds of tasks in our office while having an opportunity to meet people, gain work experience, and learn about international education.
Meet our three amazing interns who are joining us this spring!
Name: Stephanie Lam, “SLam”
Hometown: Mill Creek, Washington, U.S.
Major: Psychology; Minor: Dance
Hello!! Yes, my hometown is Mill Creek, which means I am not an international student. However, FIUTS has given me so many great opportunities to learn from people of many cultures. It has also helped me to explore my hometown (most of you know Seattle better than I do), sparked my interests in cultural dance/music and travels, and enriched my time at UW. I don’t actually remember how I stumbled into FIUTS, but I do treasure my experiences here and every interaction I have with you all. I became interested in an internship, firstly because Bader told me about his experiences, and secondly, because I wanted to be more involved and see FIUTS through a “behind-the-scenes” perspective.
Hm, things I enjoy doing? I love being outside – hiking, running, volunteering, etc. (except the cherry blossoms make my allergies go crazy). I also love dance and music, and I especially enjoy learning new types of dance and music. During fall quarter, I took an African dance class at UW (I TOTALLY recommend it!) and have continued that outside of school. This quarter, I’m taking 3 music classes: marimba/mbira, Gamelan, and steel drum! I also enjoy meeting new people and spending time with friends – although I I’d actually say I’m 60% introverted?
Oh, and I LOVE FOOD!!! I’m all for trying new types of foods. ^_^ So, feel free to give me some food recommendations/insights, especially in Seattle! Or your favorite recipes! So stop by the FIUTS office to sign up for events or to chat! I can’t wait to meet you!!
Name: Wakaba Uchiyama
Hometown: Chiba, Japan
Major: International Studies
I have been interested in doing internship in the U.S. and I chose working at FIUTS. This is because I was studying International Liberal Arts as a major in my university in Japan, and would like to know more about this kind of field. Also, as an international students for one year at the UW, I have participated in several FIUTS events before. Then I realized the importance of these programs and activities and thought I want to support them. Now, I'm really excited to working at FIUTS and meeting people with different cultures!
Since I came to Seattle last September, I really like living here. I like doing sports such as tennis, badminton, and so on. Since Seattle is a nice place to do physical activities and UW has a big sports gym, IMA, I often enjoy playing these sports with my friends. I also like traveling. Seattle has a lot of nature, so it's really fun to go on a trip and explore the neighborhood. Seattle’s nice weather in this season also makes me more active and feel like going outside! I wish I could stay here longer! Since my time is limited, I would like to enjoy my life here and experience a lot of things as much as possible. I'm sure that FIUTS will help me to meet with new people and come in touch with a lot of cultures!
I will work at front desk of FIUTS office during this quarter, and also participate some events at FIUTS. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and enjoy the time together!
My name is Vorleak Sem. I am a graduate student majoring in Organizational Development. I’m from Cambodia which is a country located in the Southeast Asian. I have been in the US since September 2013 and I have heard about FIUTS from a Chinese friend. I first started to join FIUTS with a facilitator position. Being a FIUTS facilitator, I found it was fun getting to meet many people from various background, and been able to get to learn their culture. I get a chance to practice cross-cultural communication skills and management skills. I can say that I got wonderful opportunities to apply my leadership skills with FIUTS and have been able to help international students to explore new experiences and assisting them make adjustment to the new environment.
After being a facilitator for several events, I have found myself more passionate about FIUTS' mission and vision. And wanted to know more of how FIUTS work with international students. Then, I decided to apply for an internship position. By working as intern in the FIUTS office, I have chances to learn not just communication skills but organizational skills by hand, which are very important for me as an Organizational Development practitioner. I could be able to improve myself by applying the theories I have learned into real practices, and to experience working with American colleagues. To me, I believe that nothing will work out if you don’t believe it in. If you want to achieve your aspirations and goals, you have start deciding what you want tomorrow to be about and get to work manifesting your dream.
Thanks to our awesome interns for supporting FIUTS with all your hard work!
Over Spring Break, 19 students from 11 countries traveled north to explore Vancouver and Victoria, Canada. Facilitator Kevin Sander wrote this blog post about his experience connecting with and learning from all the participants as they enjoyed this adventure together.
It was dark. Everyone had gotten their things out of the cars, but even though it was late and we were all exhausted after our adventure, nobody wanted to leave. We just stood together, laughing, embracing one another, putting off for as long as possible the inevitable goodbyes. It’s that bittersweet moment at the end of every FIUTS Global Getaway that just refuses to get any easier. Many of us were strangers when we had started our spring break in Canada together, but we came back laden with inside jokes, affectionate nicknames, and stories to share. These are a few of mine:
The drive to Vancouver was a long one, but we appreciated the time for the chance to talk and get to know one another. In my car, Bader AlFarhan navigated whilst simultaneously stirring up all sorts of interesting conversation. We talked about the joys and tribulations of students studying abroad, sharing our own experiences and lessons learned. Bader was even able to pull up insights from a book he was reading called What Do International Students Think and Feel? in-between giving me directions. Bader may not have been facilitating this event, but his presence was reassuring for he was always quick to pitch in and help solve problems. I feel like I learned a lot from his experience as well as his insights. With Bader’s excellent navigation, we successfully made it to Fairhaven for lunch. It’s a quaint area south of Bellingham with a lovely waterfront and a town center that feels like it belongs to a century past. We split up to explore the town and stretch our legs. A few of us found ourselves at Fairhaven Fish & Chips for its namesake dish. While sampling fried cod and salmon, Kamal Ahmed diverted me with tales of his homeland, Kurdistan, and his hopes for his country’s future. We discussed the political complexity of the region and the U.S. role there, good and bad. Having never met a Kurd before, I was genuinely excited to hear his unique perspective. I left Fairhaven not only excited to see Vancouver, but to learn from and enjoy more of Kamal’s good company.
Insider look enroute to Canada
Heesu already excited in Fairhaven
We got to Vancouver late, but that didn’t deter us from immediately going out for some sightseeing. We wandered downtown and eventually found ourselves on Granville Island for dinner and shopping. However, it wasn’t until the next morning that we accomplished our first big plan for the trip. Our first full day in Vancouver was to be spent in its still wild periphery. We split into two groups, one to go up Grouse Mountain and another to hike down to the Capilano River.
I chose to join the river group while Sascha Krause led Grouse Mountain group. I should mention now that I was very happy when I learned that Sascha would be facilitating this event with me. His calm demeanor helps keep me cool under pressure, but still he is very good about pointing out the flaws in my plans and making sure that I don’t overlook important details. With him along, I was always confident that we could split the group between us and ensure successful activities for everyone. When he and the others took the gondola to the “Peak of Vancouver” I had no question that they would find an excellent time at the top. As they were slowly drawn up the mountain, they looked down on towering douglas firs and enjoyed spectacular vistas of Vancouver far below. At the peak, Sascha and the bunch explored a number of trails and warmed up in a visitor center complete with museum and dining hall. I remember him telling me about his first encounter with Canadian cuisine: poutine. The combination of french-fries, gravy, and cheese curds were, in his own words, “so delicious and exactly the kind of calories you need on such a cold and rainy day.”
Bader, Ning, Yunzhou, and Kamal on Grouse Mountain
In the valley below, Henry Milander and I led a small group to explore the trails around the Capilano River. We were delighted to have the trails almost all to ourselves. We followed them wherever they led, letting our conversation flow as carelessly as the river. As we rested for lunch, Henry and I remarked on how amazing it was that it could feel so quiet and isolated less than ten minutes from downtown Vancouver. I learned a lot about Henry on the banks of the Capilano; everything from his studies in Arabic to his training in barefoot running. As a Bainbridge Islander, he is the embodiment of Northwestern spirit – his local knowledge and positive attitude contributing to every aspect of our trip. It’s his first year at the UW and this was his first time facilitating a Global Getaway. I can’t help but feel that the future of FIUTS facilitating is in good hands with Henry.
Han, Kevin, Henry, and Heesu at the Capilano River
The two groups reunited at the Capilano Dam. From atop it, we gazed down at the manmade cascade and I got to practice a little Mandarin with Jessica Lu and Lisa Chen. However, I immediately found myself in trouble as deep as the reservoir we stood over. Without getting too much into the semantics, I managed to equate Taiwanese people with Chinese in a way that made sense in English, but in Mandarin is a subject of extreme sensitivity. I have many memories with Jessica and Lisa, but the look on their faces when I called them ‘Chinese’ will always stand out. It was a valuable lesson learned for me and I thank Jessica and Lisa for being such good sports about it. 不好意思！Sorry!
That night we went to explore Gastown, Vancouver’s historic heart. It was like being thrown back into the Victorian Era, complete with red-brick streets and steam powered clocks. We soaked in the aged atmosphere, inspected the architecture, and ogled over the plethora of fantastic dining options. We split up to eat wherever looked best and I ended up with a few others, including Sultan Alshehri, at Al Porto Ristorante for some Italian. Over seafood risotto and quattro fromaggio pizza, Sultan told us about his intensive English courses at IELP and about his transition into U.S. culture. Having only ever met a few IELP students in the past, I valued the chance to learn more about how it worked and what he did. Sultan’s perspective taught me things about the UW and Seattle that I might have never known otherwise. On the way back to the hostel, we walked through Vancouver’s bustling and ultra-modern downtown. As we walked, I got to talk to Wei Hongxian (or Bruce as most of us know him). He let me confess some of the difficulties I have run into while learning Mandarin, but Bruce, as always, was nothing but encouraging. He helped me as we spoke about numerous topics in mixed Mandarin and English. After talking with him, Jessica, and Lisa, and I am more convinced now that I need to visit Taipei sooner than later.
A gaggle of us in Gastown
Our second full day in Vancouver started with a morning ride along Stanley Park’s seawall. Our flock of bikes soared through the salty Salish air, cruising leisurely as we soaked in surrounding landscape vistas and the Vancouver skyline. Everyone was enthralled with the activity, although things slowed down for a bit when Wu Ning’s bike got a flat. However, it wasn’t long before a friendly local stopped, called English Bay Bike Rentals for her, and made sure that they were able to come out and repair it quickly. Canadian kindness kept her going for the rest of the day. She was super relieved for, as she put it, she “is just a scholar and doesn’t know how to fix a bike!” I was impressed with her positivity throughout the entire endeavor and am glad that she got to experience firsthand just why Canada is known for being so nice.
Bicycling at Stanley Park
After Stanley Park, we split up again to see either the Capilano Suspension Bridge or the University of British Columbia (UBC). I led the UBC group while Sascha took the rest to the suspension bridge. Those of us who went to explore the university found a beautiful campus sprawled over almost a thousand acres of endowed lands. We admired its setting, comparing it favorably with the UW. Still, much like the UW, some of the architectural choices on campus seemed questionable, and Li Yunzhou was among us when we joked about it. (I should mention that as a facilitator, it was great to see a participant so willing to interact and socialize across cultures as Yunzhou was). She was also witness to my complete failure to figure out how many provinces made up Canada. An amused UBC student helped us out when he overheard. Turns out there are ten provinces and three territories. I don’t think either Yunzhou or I will forget that now.
One of UBC’s treasures is its Museum of Anthropology (MOA). The few acres it occupies are stuffed to the brim with archeological wonders numbering - literally - in the hundreds of thousands. The crowning jewels are its collection of first nations totem poles, but it boasts items of significance from across the globe. We spent hours poring over MOA’s exhausting inventory of beautiful artifacts, yet still we lamented that there wasn’t nearly enough time to do so. I could feel Thilini Kahandawaarachchi’s pain as we perused the many isles of relics knowing that there was no way that we could possibly absorb it all. Still, she was like a kid in a candy store, filling up on all the sweet knowledge that she could get from the museum. Having her there proved especially valuable as the museum had a collection of masks from her homeland, Sri Lanka, and she was able to explain their history and significance in far greater depth than I would have ever been able to discern on my own. There are many moments with Thilini that I remember fondly, but this one made me rethink how I visit museums; from now on, I will always bring some local experts.
While were lost deep inside of UBC’s MOA, Sascha and the rest of the gang were ascending through the rainforest canopy at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. As Sascha detailed, they traversed the 450 foot (137m) long suspension bridge while 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River. Their treetop adventure wasn’t over there, however, as a series of seven smaller suspension bridges attached to eight 30 ton, 250 year old Douglas-firs, took them up to 110 feet above the forest floor. He said it was all quite thrilling. The other participants I talked to shared Sascha’s enthusiasm, although with fewer numbers. No matter how they described it, you could sense that they had shared a truly unique and wonderful experience. I don’t regret choosing to go to UBC – I found things there that I will keep with me forever – but the pictures and smiles that came back from the Capilano were enough to make me sure of what I’ll do on my next visit.
The Capilano Crew
After returning downtown, the UBC crew ate dinner together at Banana Leaf, a Malaysian restaurant not far from the hostel. I had roti canai for the first time. Earlier at MOA, Bikrham Singh Ghura had told me an old Sikh story about Guru Nanak. In the story, Guru Nanak squeezes bread that was given to him by a rich man and blood trickles from it, but when he squeezes the bread given to him by a poor man, milk pours out. He says that this is because the wealthy man’s bread was paid for by the blood of the poor while the poor man’s bread was earned through his labor. Bikrham pointed out that the roti I was eating was a lot like the bread in the story. So I squeezed the roti too. Nothing came out. I’m still not sure what I am to make of this. What I am sure of is that my meal took on an entirely new dimension thanks to Bikrham and the culture he shared with me.
The next day we left Vancouver city and took the ferry over to Vancouver Island. When we got to Victoria, I think we were all pleasantly surprised to find a city so different from the one we had left on the mainland. I would describe Victoria as a utopian vision of a city – it’s just pleasant all around. I honestly can’t criticize it. Every walkway is clean and every garden perfectly manicured. Artwork is ubiquitous, yet almost always subtle and attractive. Even the alleyways are charming and often home to quiet little shops. The fresh environment reinvigorated everyone’s desire to explore, so we started a grand walking tour of the city that wouldn’t end until well after dark. From harbor seals at Fisherman’s Wharf, to the BC Parliamentary Buildings, to Craigdarroch Castle, we didn’t stop walking until we had seen everything. I was with Heesu Jo, as we explored the town. As we do, Heesu and I talked about anything and everything that came to mind, from politics to crumpets. Our banter can seem antagonizing at times, but it’s only because we have become fast friends over our last few trips together. I can always count on Heesu for his consistently good attitude towards life. His positive spirit lifted up everyone around him throughout the trip. Xiongdi, brother, I hope we have more adventures soon!
At the BC Parliamentary Building
Just excited to be in Victoria
As nice as Victoria was, we decided to spend the next day exploring the natural wonders of Vancouver Island. We drove out to see Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park and discovered a wild coastline dotted with beaches. We started at Botanical Beach just as the tide was at its lowest, so we were quick to explore the tide pools before it would come in again. We were all enthralled with what we found there, but I don’t think anybody was more enchanted with the natural bounty before us than Xiao Jingwen. She works as an interpreter at the Seattle Aquarium, so she reveled in the opportunity to see northwest marine life in its natural setting. Pointing them out as she found them, she taught us about limpets, chiton, sculpin, sea anemone, sea urchins and more. We might have gone and seen these things without Jingwen, but because she was there we were able to see clearer and appreciate more completely the world we found in each little pool. I can’t say enough about how cool the tide pools were or how thankful I am that Jingwen was there to show them to us.
As the tide moved back in, we moved over to neighboring Sombrio Beach for a seaside campfire. Earlier in the day, we had stopped at a grocery store so that everyone could pick up some things that they might like to roast over the fire. Maybe I should have expected it given the diversity of cultural backgrounds in our group, but I was still surprised by the variety and creativity displayed at our dinner. Some of us cooked chicken on hot stones, others roasted bread and potatoes, and others still managed to bake whole mini pizzas. Some of our cooking techniques required us to build whole new contraptions for getting food over the flame; I don’t think anyone will forget Sascha’s Roast Master 3000 or, most impressively, the ensemble of sticks and banana that allowed Lauren Young to roast an entire digestive biscuit s’more at once. I was satisfied with the standard sausages and marshmallows that I had brought, but seeing what everyone else came up with was truly inspiring. I will probably be more imaginative with the next campfire I am at thanks to those at Sombrio Beach. We continued to happily roast away until well after the sun had set and the stars began to show. I searched the heavens with Hanul Seo and together we found Venus and the Pleiades and admired the most vivid moon ring we’ve ever seen. Han and I both admitted that our knowledge of the heavens above was lacking – with so many lights, we could only name a few. That didn’t stop us from appreciating them, however, as we realized that what we were seeing represented literally thousands of years of stellar history as the light travelled to us from far away. By the time we returned to Victoria, I was determined to relearn that which our ancestors knew about the sky. Han and I agreed to spend more time looking up.
Making Dinner at Sombrio Beach
On our last day together, I joined a small group of early risers at 7:00AM so that we might squeeze in as much time wandering the city as possible before we left for Seattle. Alan Chang was among us. Alan and I had many conversations over the break, but I remember those we had over our breakfasts at John’s Place and the Blue Fox most fondly. This is probably due in part to the fact that both these establishments prove that Victorians know how to start the day right (you need a relaxed atmosphere, eggs, and coffee, in case you were wondering), but Alan’s easy-going style and pleasant demeanor definitely made the experience complete. Alan is one of the most amiable people I’ve ever met and I’m glad he was there for the revival of Team Sunrise, Canada edition.
Our journey back to Seattle from Victoria was a long one, but filled with many more moments I won’t soon forget. There was a picturesque ferry ride and a last minute, very necessary stop at Tim Hortons before we crossed the border. Once we had all successfully made it back into the U.S., we celebrated our successful trip and waved goodbye to Canada from Blaine Marina Park. Too soon, we were back in the cars and headed south again. The long car ride gave me a chance to talk at length with Lauren Young, a kiwi on exchange at the UW. Our conversation covered everything from her home in New Zealand, to Chinese culture, to issues surrounding multiple identities. Later we would discuss growing up as part of a military family with Madison Doser who, like me, grew up with parents serving in the armed forces. We talked about what it was like to move around constantly and how tough it can be to have family gone on deployment. Our conversation touched on subjects that I hadn’t spoken of in a long time, dredging up memories and feelings that I had let sink deep inside me for years. It was cathartic, and I can only thank Madison and Lauren for sharing so much with me on our journey.
On the Ferry
Everyone, on our way home
It was dark. We were back at the Burke, trying to say goodbye. Before we parted ways, the participants presented the facilitators with a thank you card, signed by all of them and filled with inside jokes. It was sweet – the greatest souvenir we could have hoped for. Since that night, I have been asked many times where I went for Spring break, and I have many good things to say about Vancouver and Victoria. But as I reflect on it, it is clear to me that my spring break was less about where I went and more about who I was with. The stories I’ve shared here are only a small fraction those I cherish from this trip. If you were to ask any of them, I’m sure the eighteen others that shared in this adventure would tell you dozens more. Global Getaways are for making connections and the connections we forged on this one have made this spring break the best I’ve ever had.
Today is the last day in the office for our amazing intern, Misaki, who flies back to Japan tomorrow! Misaki has done so much to help out at the front desk and at FIUTS events over the last few months, and we'll miss her a lot. She wrote a blog post to say goodbye and share what she plans to do with her time post-FIUTS.
Where are you from?
I’m from Japan. I was born in Kyoto and moved to Yokohama, Chiba and Osaka. All my family is from Kyoto, and I’ve been living in Kyoto since I was 18 years old, so I always say I’m from Kyoto.
What year are you and what are you studying?
I am a senior studying political science in Kyoto Prefectural University.
What made you have interest in other cultures?
When I was 20 years old, I went to the Philippines to study English for one month. It gave me a big impact. That studying trip gave me the idea that English is a language, not a subject to get in the university. English education in Japan focuses on more about translation than speaking, so I had no idea what English is like. Since then I really love English and getting to know other culture. I really like developing countries because I can feel energy a lot from people more than developed country. I really want to go to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. If you are interested in going there with me, let me know!
What have you done during your time as a FIUTS intern, and what was your favorite thing that you did?
I sold events, manage the Facebook page, answering email and phone call. Also, I made the event on May 3rd. I hope many people can enjoy it! I was able to meet SO MANY people from different back ground through working at FIUTS which is my favorite thing. I wish I joined FIUTS soon after I came here. I’m sad I have to say goodbye. The biggest thing that I think I’ve changed after I came to the US is I don’t judge people anymore. When I was in Japan, I tend to judge people by my measure. After I met so many people in the US, I started understanding people who have different thoughts and now I can think it’s natural and I can see good aspects of people and respect them. I hope my thought won’t change after I go back to Japan.
Misaki's goodbye gift to the office: A beautiful picture of the FIUTS staff and interns!
What are your plans after you leave FIUTS?
I’m thinking having Japanese language class in Japan for international students. I’ve been realizing there is a distance between local people and international students. I want international students to have great experience in Japan by making Japanese friends and getting to know them. I will try to make a connection between Japanese and international students.
Also, I will continue doing “Dream Factory” Facebook page. I hope many people will get encouraged by subscribing that Facebook page. I liked everything so much here.
I wish I can come back for graduate school or job or marriage (hahahaha).
Misaki enjoying a goodbye cupcake on her last day!
Thank you, Misaki, for everything! Come back and visit us soon!
Happy Spring, everyone! We're excited to introduce this quarter's UW student who will be joining FIUTS as a writer for this blog. Andrea will write several blog posts throughout the quarter in order to share some of her unique insights and experiences as an international student at UW.
Keep an eye on the FIUTS blog for her posts in the next few weeks! Here's a little bit about our new blogger:
My name is Andrea Tamara, and currently I'm a junior student majoring in Arts and English. It's been two years since I came from Indonesia to pursue my dreams here at University of Washington, and there are lots of cultural experiences that I'd like to share while I'm here! That includes cultural events, inspiring places--or even food for thought that sometimes popped in my head while I was walking across campus. I hope my experiences and ideas can be helpful for you as you're studying here as a Husky!
Featured posts by past FIUTS Student Bloggers:
Start Your Journey By Combating Culture Shock by Huan Liang
We Are Alike, As International Students by You Li
Exploring Seattle with Jade: Portage Bay Cafe by Jade Onnalin Kajornklam
FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over theworld who welcome new international visitors, help to organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Abby!
Name: Abigail Lim
Major: Psychology; Anthropology
FIUTS Facilitator Since: Autumn 2014
Most people know me as Abby, the girl with red hair – or so I’ve been told! I’ve been in America for about four years, having moved from Singapore to Seattle with my family. I’m currently juggling undergraduate life, being the oldest sister of two younger siblings, a temperamental ten-year-old dachshund, a small Etsy shop, and of course, FIUTS commitments. On the rare occasion that I find myself with free time, I enjoy tinkering around on the piano, strumming a couple chords on the ukulele, watching endless shows on Netflix, and indulging in a good book while sipping good hot tea. (That is to say, I’m not entirely a tea-only person as I enjoy a good cuppa joe as much as the next Seattlite.)
What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?
I joined FIUTS in the autumn of 2014, and my biggest regret is not discovering FIUTS sooner! At this point, when I’m preparing for graduation soon, I can say without doubt that my involvement with FIUTS has definitely been the highlight of my time at the UW. Unlike most other international students, I did not participate in international student orientation since I’m considered an in-state student. As such, I only found out about FIUTS in the spring of 2014 when they were recruiting members for the new student board. Curious, I did a bit of research on FIUTS, and the more I read the more excited I got. I submitted an application, not expecting much since I had no prior experience, but desperate to find something worthwhile to do so I could say that my time at the UW was not spent solely on academic pursuits. I wanted to help make a difference in the lives of my fellow students at the UW, to ease them along their transition into American culture as I had gone through the same awkward journey myself.
And that’s the core of what it means to be a FIUTS facilitator to me. Transitions are never easy, and I think it’s wonderful that international students at the UW have access to the awesome resource that is FIUTS. As a facilitator, you would be the point of contact between the international student body and FIUTS, a position that would enable you to see your efforts impact and help real people. I’m grateful to be both a facilitator and a member of the student board since I get to play both fields – to be involved in the planning as well as the execution of events. Too often, it is easy to get caught up in issues of logistics and planning so we forget that we’re planning these events for real people. Being a facilitator has helped me to keep this in mind, and to also reap the satisfaction of seeing an event unfurl at the frontlines. Without facilitators, FIUTS would just be another impersonal organization. Facilitators connect the students to FIUTS, while also connecting FIUTS to the students. I like to think of facilitators as facilitating the formation of friendships, not of events or activities.
Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator
As a facilitator, you get to meet many people at various events, and sometimes it might feel like these connections you make are only superficial. I try to make it a point to get to know people not just during the event, but after the event as well so these relationships are maintained, and hopefully deepened. FIUTS events are meant to be just the starting points for us to get to know each other in safe and fun environments, and it’s up to us to maintain the connections we make even after the event. In addition, during the event itself, I try to engage myself more meaningfully. By this I mean that I try to go beyond just the icebreakers – an activity or two is not enough to get to know someone, nor is it always sufficient to get people to feel comfortable and open up. Once, a girl told me that even though we’d only met briefly through a single event, she felt as though we had been friends for a long time. It’s moments like this that I treasure and take to be an indicator of my success as a facilitator.
Tips for peer facilitators
As a facilitator you may feel pressured to maintain the image of “the leader”. While in some respects this is indeed so, I have found that this mentality is usually detrimental, as it is founded on the rigid understanding of a hierarchical leadership. I find it much more useful to see everybody as equals, as peers. Though you may be the one guiding them along the activity, don’t feel like you have to be one step ahead of everyone else all the time as you’re guiding, and not directing. Being more of a director than a guider could make you seem less approachable, which would only serve to detach you from the core purpose of a facilitator, which is, as I mentioned above – to facilitate new friendships, not events.
Most events involve more than one facilitator as well, so the burden of leadership doesn’t fall to just you. Dividing the workload helps, and it also makes it easier for you to interact more personally with each person. Large group settings may be intimidating, and you may feel like retreating into your comfort zone by staying with your fellow facilitators. Fight that urge! Breaking up into groups so each one of you has a smaller group to work with makes it much less intimidating, and would also make your interactions more genuine than if you were constantly trying to move on to the next person.
Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself particularly extroverted. Chatting with people doesn’t have to involve a lot of talking on your part; an important conversation skill many people lack because of its difficulty is listening. By listening to your peers when they talk, you’re effectively conveying that you value what they have to say, and that you’re sincerely interested in learning more about them. Listening actively is also important, so you can ask follow-up questions, or interject meaningfully so they know that you’re actually paying attention to them. Conversely, recognize that other people may not be particularly extroverted either, and understandably so since they are in a foreign environment, with a lot of new people, perhaps speaking a different language than they are used to, and with a lot of new customs to keep in mind – it can be a lot to take in! It is a tricky social situation to maneuver as you want to help them feel comfortable while trying not to overstep your boundaries and come across as too pushy. As a rule of thumb, open-ended questions are always better than close-ended ones, as they encourage your interlocutor to speak more. It could also help to think of conversation starters in advance. Don’t forget that sometimes silence is okay, and that it can be reassuring to just be there for someone who’s feeling a little shy.
Finally, remember that there really is no one way to facilitate! Everybody brings something unique to the table, and that’s what makes each and every one of us valuable. A lot of it is about being in the moment, and going with the flow. If anything, I’d say that the most important thing is to be yourself, and to challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone. Facilitating is an experience through which you gain as much as, if not more than, you contribute! It’s a learning experience for everybody, so don’t be scared to try new things.
Oh and also, don’t forget to have fun! :)
More Facilitator Corner posts:
The quarterly FIUTS Photo Contest is an opportunity for members of the FIUTS community to share images from around the world. The theme for this quarter was "Travel the World" and we received photos from trips that members of our community have taken in the U.S., Nepal, Switzerland, Colombia, and more.
As usual, there were so many submissions and it was incredibly difficult for the judges to choose just three winners! Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your beautiful pictures.
First Place: Arizona, USA
Photographer: Tetsugoro Matsubara (Japan)
"I took this photo during my bicycle trip in Arizona. Loading all my camping gear and biking for 16 days, I've traveled over 500 miles. Starting from Phoenix, I went to Sedona, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, and was heading to Las Vegas when I was caught in a snowstorm. I ended up hitchhiking with my bicycle and made my way to Las Vegas just in time for the New Years Celebration! I left a city called Flagstaff and was half way to Grand Canyon when I took this photo (It is about 6 miles past a town called Cameron). It was extremely cold there (14℉ or -10℃), and even during the day, my water inside the bottle started to freeze. Camping was tough but I was awarded by stunning sunsets and sunrises, spectacular scenery, and there were always people that helped me along. Definitely was a trip of a lifetime."
Second Place: Olympic National Park, Washington, USA
Photographer: Maike Douglas (Brazil)
"This photo was taken during the FIUTS trip to Olympic National Park, WA, on February 15th. Specifically, this place is called Hurricane Ridge, one of the most stunning places I had the opportunity to visit there. By having "Hurricane" as one of its names, you may probably have a sense of how cold and windy it is on the top of this mountain."
Third Place: Sarlahi, Nepal
Photographer: Katherine Tan (Malaysia)
"The photo was taken in Sarlahi, Nepal (close to the Indian border) of a mountain goat on top of water buffalo by a countryside road. This picture warms my heart as it reminds me that friendship is without borders. Even though the mountain goat and the water buffalo are such different animals, they can exist in harmony and enjoy each other's presence. I really love it when cultures come together to create joyful and learning experiences!"
Congratulations to the winners, and be sure to stop by the FIUTS office to pick up your prize!
And here are all of the amazing photos we received (shown in no particular order). Thank you all again for your submissions, which provide a beautiful glimpse into places around the world.
Los Angeles, California, USA
Photographer: Zhen Xu (China)
Zhen, who shot this photo during the road trip in California, says: "This pic is taken at dusk at Santa Monica Beach, LA. It was shot by iPhone without any filter or PS management. You can see both peace and surprise from the people on the beach."
Photographer: Yuanjiang Song (China)
Yuanjiang, who took this photo of a bird while traveling in Oregon, says: "I thought the bird had a positive attitude towards the winter!"
San Francisco, California, USA
Photographer: Lauren Young (New Zealand)
Lauren took this photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. She says: "We trekked across the Golden Gate Bridge and to the top of a hill to catch the sunset and the evening traffic - stunning!"
Photographer: Taru Singhal (India)
Taru says: "This picture of a Camel Cart was taken at a beach in Porbandar, which is the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, India."
Photographer: Jason Ye (China)
Jason traveled to Switzerland in October 2011 and took this photo of the Château de Chillon.
Seattle, Washington, USA
Photographer: Wenjie Li (China)
Wenjie took this photo on June 22, 2014, at the Seattle Rock & Roll Marathon. He calles it "Holding hands~" and says: "Traveling in the modern days now, have all sort of different ways like by driving bicycle, car, motorcycle, plane, boat... It makes our lives much easier but also busier. Nothing would be better than true friends holding hands together running together towards the finishing line. I believe that's the best of traveling."
St. Petersburg, Russia
Photographer: Cathy Farrar (USA)
Cathy, a longtime FIUTS host and Friendship Connection, says: "I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia in August 2014. This is 'Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood' (a gory sounding cathedral name, but where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory)."
Photographer: Lynn Masuda (Australia)
Lynn took this photo in Nagoya, Japan, of "dangling radishes at an organic market in December's cold winter. They are drying so that they can be pickled and eaten in the spring."
Photographer: Songtian (Tim) Zeng (China)
Songtian took this photo in India in 2008, at 6 AM as people were bathing in the river. He says: "This photo always reminds me how peaceful and simple life could be."
Photographer: Bingyan Mei (China)
Bingyan took this photo of the Hong Kong Skyline at Sky 100 Observation Deck in 2014.
Santa Cruz de Mompox, Colombia
Photographer: Maria Alexandra Artunduaga (Colombia)
Maria took this photo while fishing with a group of local fishermen on the Magdalena River.
Thank you again to everyone who participated, and we hope you'll participate again! The theme of the Spring 2015 FIUTS Photo Contest is "There's No Place Like Home." Send a photo that represents any place that you think of as "home" to email@example.com. All photos must have been taken by the person submitting them. Please include your name, where you are from, and a brief description of the photo including where it was taken. The deadline to submit photos is noon on May 27, 2015.
Thao Tran is a University of Washington senior and a FIUTS facilitator. In this blog post, she shares her story of cultural identity and what it means to grow up with the challenges and joys of navigating between two different cultures.
Photo at right by Saifullah Muhammad/Emdee Photography.
Hi! So my name is Thao Tran!
I’m a senior here at the University of Washington and I consider myself a Vietnamese American. That’s basically the short version. The version I tell people when I first meet them because I think it’s short, sweet, and to the point…and I don’t like to drear on and on about myself. But the truth?
The truth is… Thao is just a nickname that everyone calls me because I have yet to meet a non-Vietnamese person who could say my name right. My full first name is actually Phuong Thao and though I consider myself a Vietnamese American, I’m actually only 1/8th Vietnamese.
My family originated in China but one of my ancestors decided to move to Vietnam so though my mother is full Chinese, she didnit speak a word of it. My father on the other hand is ¾ Chinese and ¼ Vietnamese. Then the Vietnam War happened. My father and mother were forced to flee to America during their early 20s and coincidentally met here, in America, and had me. Therefore I’m actually almost full Chinese by blood, raised in the Vietnamese culture in America.
Despite the fact that I was raised in America, however, English wasn’t necessarily my first language. You see, in my family I am the youngest of four kids and each and every one of us knew that the adults hated when we spoke English; my siblings never spoke it in front of them. They always spoke English amongst themselves though. As a result, by the time I entered Kindergarten the only people who were able to understand everything I said were people who understood both English and Vietnamese.
Unfortunately, the school I went to was made of mostly Caucasians. I was the only full Asian student in my entire grade.
Trust me. I checked.
As a result this caused me to be isolated and I had difficulty in not only expressing myself in school but also to my parents.
Something unique in my family is also the fact that in every generation one child is born with red hair and pale skin which also changes as they get older. Oddly enough I was that kid. My mother told me that when I was born I came out with red hair for a couple of days before it started becoming blond.
By the time I entered kindergarten though I had prominently blond hair.
By middle school it had turned to a very light brown and now?
Now my hair is turning black.
So I’m basically turning Asian though my pale skin doesn't seem to go away no matter how long I stay in the sun.
So imagine this: a Caucasian looking girl with blond hair who has an Asian name and who is struggling to talk because she’s used to talking in a mix of languages. If that doesn't confuse other kids I don’t know what will!
Now by college, I think I speak English rather well if I do say so myself.
On the way of becoming fluent in English, however, I've been slowly forgetting Vietnamese and I regret that I don’t know more about my family’s culture. Then roughly two years ago I studied abroad in Vietnam for 6 weeks. And after coming back I really missed the cultural exchange I had with the high school kids there.
I know I call myself a Vietnamese American and all but truthfully I’m still really confused about the culture. To this day I don’t feel completely comfortable telling people about Vietnamese culture because I can’t differentiate if what I was raised with is Vietnamese culture or family tradition. But after a couple of weeks of coming back to America, a friend of mine introduced me to FIUTS (Foundation of International Understanding Through Students) and to be frank, after my first event I've become hooked. Even though I’m not an international student, I've experienced some of the difficulties and joys of living in-between different cultures. As a result I've also grown to love interacting with various different students from various different cultures and hearing their stories. So now I’m a volunteer or facilitator at FIUTS.
And that’s where I am so far.
But yeah… that’s the long version of my story.
Now imagine if I told that story to everyone I met haha.
Thao (third from left) with fellow members of this year's CulturalFest Performance Committee
Jade Onnalin Kajornklam is one of this quarter's FIUTS student bloggers. Jade is from Thailand and is an international exchange student at UW. In her free time, Jade enjoys exploring different places to eat around Seattle. Her blog posts will share her favorite locations so that other international students can learn about them too! Read on to learn more about one of Jade's Seattle restaurant recommendations.
Hello guys, I’m here again. I can’t believe this winter quarter is ending! Sadly, I had no idea that my third column will turn to be my very last one. Time always runs ahead of our consciousness, doesn’t it? We get a little bit of the sun and ultimately a near fully bloomed beautiful Quad during this unavoidable disgusting dead week. In small wicked and weird part of my brain honestly thinks that someone should announce university area as a war zone during this time. Zombies are walking everywhere. They want to eat your brain, fight it baby. Keep your brain fresh. Study hard and win it. It will pass you by even before you know it. If you ever get tired, just remember you are not in this alone. And in no time, you will be enjoying spring break and perhaps going to celebrate at this little place I am going to walk you to today.
Alright, this place I proudly present to you today is called ‘Row House Cafe’. It is a very first brunch I had since I got to Seattle. Located in the South Lake Union area, standing upon modern buildings, there is, literally just like the name, a row house hidden in between. The restaurant looks so different you have to look back twice if you were walking by. It looks like a little farm house where beautiful hipsters or gypsies live in, the perfect way to describe the look is that it is the exact kind of house you would totally, randomly and luckily find if you get lost in a dark forest in fantasy movies. Walking in, you will face the counter full with freshly baked goods. The place appears to be small, yet they manage to have different vibes in each part.
As always guys, I recommend the place with outstanding menu (http://rowhousecafe.com/menu/). I do not compromise on that. Now what is so special about this place is that firstly, they have this sexiest brunch dish made with croissant and brie cheese, 1000 LAYER FRENCH TOAST.
Secondly, the staff is extraordinary nice. Getting inside feeling trapped into a new world gives you a little break from life. Row House Café simply offers you a little escape to reboot your energy, an adventure actually. Lastly, it is so close to the water! After finished my meal, my friend and I decided to walk digesting our food and chilling by the water at Chandler’s cove, where you can take the water wind in your hair and enjoy daydreaming about having your own boat one day. It is within a five-minute walk range from Row House Café.
These two places are extremely close to bus stops and it only takes approximately fifteen minutes from the University District. Since it is so easy to have one perfect day after our exams, why don’t you just text your friends now and plan ahead to check it out?
It has been a big pleasure writing this blog, it gives me an opportunity to have a responsibility and to share my passion. I hope I can help inspire someone in some small ways, I don’t hope much, but I do hope. Enjoy your spring break guys.
For more about Jade and the other Winter 2015 student bloggers, click here.
Guest post by Eva Marie Green, a UW alumna. Eva wrote this piece to highlight a unique cultural event that she experienced as a student, and includes insights from international students about their participation in this event.
Step is a dance form that originated with African-American fraternities in the 1950’s, but today it is embraced by other ethnicities as well . Blurring ethnic lines, the art of step has reached beyond its African-American roots to include many other cultures, including but not limited to Latino and Asian communities. This type of dance has helped build a sense of unity among brothers and sisters in multicultural Greek letter organizations for decades.
I spent the last three weeks with the step team from Lambda Phi Epsilon (Lambdas), an Asian interest fraternity at the University of Washington. Step dance helps build a sense of community in the fraternities and sororities of the United Greek Council (UGC) on the University of Washington campus . The UGC has been one of the leading contributors of step promotion by holding workshops, showcases, and competitions on and around campus. Of the twelve fraternities and sororities recognized by the UGC, eight have a step team, a stroll line, or a hip hop crew. This gives opportunity for all members and friends of the UGC, whether or not they step, to participate in campus-wide events to foster the cultures of their community.
I had the privilege to attend the practices of the Lambda step team as they prepared for a competition that would soon be taking place. The competition they were preparing for was the Sixth Annual Step Out Against Domestic Violence Showcase, which was an annual philanthropic event organized by Sigma Psi Zeta, a UGC sorority . Although it is open to anyone, the main performances showcased UGC organizations such as Sigma Beta Rho and alpha Kappa Delta Phi competing for a cash prize.
Walking into Kane Hall on the night of the competition was nerve wracking. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never been to an event like this before. All around me, students dressed in their Greek letters were greeting each other with hugs, handshakes and highfives, albeit these were the same people they would be competing against in mere minutes. Undoubtedly, there was a sense of camaraderie among the Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans in the room. They were there to support their friends and be part of the community. When asked how step builds community, Vivian Yu, the co-chair that helped in organizing the event stated, “Stepping and dance are great ways to bring people together. These step teams work together for weeks building unity, the key is to try and sound like one person on stage.”
Judged by a panel of step experts, the Lambda Phi Epsilon step team was determined the overall winner among the competition. Bryan Dosono, president of UGC and former member of the Lambda Phi Epsilon step team, explained how unity goes beyond the performance and becomes part of the community. Per Dosono, “Step builds strength in unity. This tradition is embraced in our communities because it allows marginalized groups to unite against oppression, break out of their confines, and express themselves in a very raw way.”
Since its inception at the University of Washington in 1999, Lambda Phi Epsilon has viewed step as a rite of passage for new members to encourage unity and fellowship . This process allows joining together of Asian Americans as well as other Asian ethnicities from all over the world. Gilbert Zhou is a sophomore that joined the fraternity this year, and he is an international student from China. When asked how step has made him feel like part of the community, he said, “Not once has anyone [from Lambda Phi Epsilon] made me feel like I didn’t belong here. Step let me feel like part of the group. My parents in China don’t even know what stepping is—it isn’t something from my country.”
Overall, I went into this knowing little about step as a form of dance. Going through the process of preparing for a competition with the Lambdas taught me that step dance is a lot more than stomping your feet and clapping your hands. And though I had only a glimpse of what step dance in these communities entail, I learned that cultural preservation drives these traditions from one generation to the next so the art of step will forever be moving forward.
Eva Marie Green is a University of Washington alumna (2014) who majored in Dance and American Indian Studies.
 Fine, Elizabeth Calvert. Soulstepping: African American Step Shows. University of Illinois Press, 2003.
 The mission of UW UGC is to promote unity and respect among multicultural Greek organizations on campus.
 The idea for the “Step Out” philanthropic awareness showcase originated in 2008 by Sigma Psi Zeta Member Thu Nguyen who felt that domestic violence was an issue that needed more visibility in the community.
 Lambda Phi Epsilon was the winner of the 2013 “Huskies in Action” contest, hosted by the Student Philanthropy Education Program.