Wed 4 Mar 2015

Digesting Cultural Differences

There’s nothing like sharing some good kai to bring down any cultural barriers.

That’s exactly what happened at WITT recently when international students were invited to share some food with their Māori and Pasifika counterparts  at an informal l luncheon at the on-campus marae, Te Piere o te rangi.

It was the brainchild of WITT’s International Students Liaison officer Robyn Harvey and Allana Prestney, WITT’s Māori and Pacifika Support Coordinator.

“Robyn and I decided that, culturally across the campus, it would be a good idea to bring our international, Māori and Pasifika students together at a multi-cultural kaupapa,’’ said Allana.

“During the last 12 months it’s fair to say many of our international students have discovered WITT’s marae, Te Piere o te rangi, and they feel comfortable here. Some of them tend to come here and work, which is nice.  Robyn and I decided to try something a little different and have a luncheon.’’

 Robyn said in previous years WITT had put on a barbecue for the international students, while the Māori and Pasifika students had a separate event.

“But after Allana and I got talking it was decided to do something a little different.

“I thought it was great. A lot of our international students like to experience our culture, that’s important to them. This was a very informal way of mixing up the various groups and using Te Piere was the perfect venue.’’

Robyn says at the moment WITT has 212 overseas students enrolled, the most since 2002. “As you can imagine we were delighted to get a turnout of around 120 students at the luncheon.”

Allana said although the budget was limited, every effort was put into the food that was served.

“We had three dishes of Indian food brought in, and our Māori and Pasifika food was all prepared by our marae catering tutors and students. Much of it was done at their Wednesday night class by Denis Duthie, which was why we had the lunch on the Thursday ,’’ she said.

“We had two types of boil-ups, doughboys, veggies and a chop suey as well. We had some ‘normal’’ kai, chicken and salad and buns for anyone wanting something more traditional.  It was all served buffet style, with all the food around the tables.”

“That meant the students mixed up well and got to know each other. The food was the real hit though,’’ says Allana.  

There were a variety of ethnicities present among the students, Allana says.  “There were Chinese, Indian, Pasifika and Māori just to name a few,’’ she said.

 Both Allana and Robyn agree there will be more luncheons, with a second one tentatively planned for the second semester.