Monday, November 3, 2014

Intercultural Conversation on the Topic of Risk

Mr. Hikaru Yokoyama of Japan
Our second intercultural conversation of Fall 2014, on the topic of risk, was held on Thursday, October 30. Our reporter for this second intercultural conversation is Mr. Hikaru Yokoyama, an exchange student from Sophia University in Japan with a major in international relations. This semester, as an exchange student at Loyola University New Orleans, Hikaru is in the Pilot Program of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP), where he takes two credit-bearing courses in English skills as well as two courses in other fields at Loyola.

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An Intercultural Conversation on Risk
By Hikaru Yokoyama

Recently, it is getting much colder than I had expected, which makes me feel that time actually flies. Over two months have passed since I began to study in the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP), and this is already the second time for me to attend an intercultural conversation, where we talk about specific subjects from our class readings and discussions with guests from various back grounds. The discussion was professionally led by Dr. David O'Donaghue, a philosopher, psychologist, and artist, and the founder and director of the New Orleans Lyceum and of Chautauqua New Orleans for life-long learning. Our guests were Ms. Dee Smith and Mr. Ed Wadsworth from New Orleans, who shared ideas with us and helped us with understanding the local cultural values.

This time, our intercultural conversation topic was risk. In class, we had read The Circle Harp by Donna Glee Williams and The Chinese Boy by George Bishop, two short stories about people who take important risks.

The discussion started with a question from Dr. David O'Donaghue. He asked about the risk that we are taking right now: the decision to study in a different environment. One LIEP student told us the story of her marriage. She came to the United States some years ago without enough skills of English, knowledge, and preparation, to marry a man who lives in the United States. Her parents objected, telling her the difficulties she would have in an unknown place without enough language skills and with an intercultural marriage, but she decided to go with her strong will. In her case, what moved her the most was love. Probably she knew what would happen. She would have difficulty communicating with the local people and suffer from cultural adjustment. Of course, she missed her country. Then, as time passed, she sometimes felt uncomfortable during visits to her own country, since her adjustment was in a transition phase between the two cultures. However, she did. She took the risk.

Another LIEP student told us about his risk in coming to the United States for a career change. He had a good job in his own country. He was in a good position at his office, but one day he quit his job to train in the United States as a life coach. He has now begun working as a life couch, who helps people seeking to make changes in their lives. Surprisingly, he said he didn’t feel so nervous when he quit his job, because he loves a challenge. He has changed his career and is ready to dive into a new world. He said that he has always felt pleasure in doing new things. His current work as a life coach is to help people to face the challenge of doing what they like to do. In terms of the subject of the discussion, he seems to enjoy the risk he takes. An interesting way of handling risk; to enjoy. It was a good lesson for me.

Sometimes, we tend to hesitate for a while in front of a risk. If I fail, it might cause problems; even if I succeed at first, no one promises a steady benefit from the risk I take. However, these two LIEP students who told their stories gave me one important thought: we can be simple about the decision. Of course, we have to take care of ourseves, we have to be circumspect, we have to make sure our plan is well matured, especially if it might involve our family or friends. After that, we can just be simple. I do it because I want to. I go there because I love the person. I change my work because I have found something more interesting. This is what I felt during the second intercultural conversation of this semester.

It is always interesting and informative to meet people whose backgrounds are unfamiliar. This sometimes makes me question my old values formed in my one specific culture. I look forward to the next intercultural conversation, which will be held close to Christmas, and to meeting new values and cultures.

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Thank you, Mr. Hikaru Yokoyama, for your informative reporting on our intercultural conversation about risk!

Because this intercultural conversation took place on October 30, the day before Halloween, we enjoyed some delicious Halloween treats! Two enthusiastic students also came in costume!

We were served Halloween treats: black olives, orange cheddar cheese with black pepper crackers and herbed crackers, orange pumpkin bread, dark brown chocolate squares.
We enjoy our Halloween treats while getting acquainted in small groups before the Intercultural Conversation proper.
Two enthusiastic LIEP students came to the Intercultural Conversation in Halloween costumes! Mr. Tom Almeida of Brazil (left) came as Iron Man, and Ms. Ingrid Rogriguez-Fierro of Guatemala (right) came in her spider dress!

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