Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lifting a Cup of Yerba Maté to our Argentinian Visitors

Vol State has been hosting a group of three students, and one faculty member from South America. This is part of the International Education program to develop a student and faculty cultural exchange with institutions in Argentina. During a recent party to welcome them, the group was sharing a special gourd of yerba maté, an Argentinean cultural drink. It is a unique herbal tea that is shared from the same cup, bolstering old friendships and often used to initiate new friends into the group.

Gustavo Solanas is an economics instructor from the state of Entre Rios, about 4 hours north of Buenos Aries. He chose to visit Tennessee because the economy is similar to his home. He is interested in our business practices. It has been over ten years since his last visit to the United States.

One of his goals was to, “find out more about the organization of [US] colleges; observing different classes; meeting the teachers and talking to the students,” he said. “It’s interesting to compare the cultural differences with music, food and jobs.”

Dean and Director of International Education, Dr. John Espey, pointed out the importance of developing multi-cultural diversity on our campus. “International education is now involved with a shrinking globe,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for me to be in e-mail contact with Ireland, Argentina, Mongolia, China, Denmark, and Australia all in the same day.”

The students were busy immersing themselves in classes, community functions, and socializing. Student Elena Martin was especially interested in a social media presentation. “I would like to see this presentation given in my country,” she said.

Not being familiar with the social custom I was hesitant to participate in the yerba maté drinking. I soon overcame my hestitancy and I have since bought my own yerba maté. It's an earthy green tea that just smells healthy. It wasn't bad, but I can see developing a taste for it. Of course, the social side of the experience is the best part. I will be ready next time I visit with my friends from Argentina.

Volunteer State Community College

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