Gappa is a Hindi word which loosely translated means “conversation among friends.” Michigan Tech’s International Programs and Services hosted a Gappa Lunch and Learn last month.
Three of Tech’s international students spoke about their home countries at the event. Among the speakers were Aseem Upadhyay, a graduate student in computer science from India, and Japanese first-year exchange student Yuika Fukui.
Upadhyay spoke on topics such as the geography, culture, ethnicity, traditions, society and religions of India.
Indian Hand Gestures
He especially enjoyed talking about common Indian hand gestures. “Since Michigan Tech has a lot of students from India, I felt the audience would be eager to know about what the various hand gestures in India mean,” he explains.
For example, the Western side-to-side hand movement for “hello” is frequently interpreted by Indians as “no” or “go away.”
A guest approached Upadhyay after the Gappa, telling him her son had an Indian friend who used hand gestures that she found strange at times. She told Upadhyay that thanks to his presentation, she now knows what those gestures mean.
Fukui talked about her home city of Shiga Prefecture. She spoke of the differences between her home university, University of Shiga Prefecture, and education in the United States. “I want to encourage people who are interested in Japan and thinking of studying abroad in Japan to visit my university,” she says.
Fukui says she was excited to talk about Japan because there are so few Japanese students at Tech that it is hard for people to understand the culture.
Both Upadhyay and Fukui say they would encourage their international friends to participate in future events like the Gappa. They added they enjoyed learning about their peers’ cultures as well.
International Students' Cultures
Laura Givens of Michigan Tech’s International Programs and Services says she organized the event because she wants the campus community to really get to know the international students. “We only know what the media, movies and TV portray about other cultures. I have learned so much about our student backgrounds and cultures that I wanted everyone to see how amazing our international students are,” she explains.
Givens adds she received nothing but positive responses from those who attended the Gappa. She says a few departments have reached out about hosting their own departmental Gappa.
Gappas are held once or twice a month in the IPS office. Another Gappa Lunch and Learn is being planned for the fall 2017 semester.
Michigan Tech has approximately 1,200 international students and scholars from 62 different countries.
If you’d like more information on international studies or hosting a Gappa, contact Givens.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.