VISA President Explores Cultural Backgrounds, Starting with Home
“I wish people would become more interested in other people around the world, because they are interested in us, they are learning about us, so we may as well return the favor and learn a little bit about them," said Jordan Fernandes, President of Vol State International Student Association (VISA).
Jordan grew up in San Bernardino, California, a “culturally integrated” place a few hours outside of Los Angeles. Some of his best friends were Native American, Mexican and a lot were Asian.
With an Italian mom and a Mexican dad, Jordan said, “coming from kind of a mixed background, I find it difficult to fit in really well. I can relate to people, but I don’t fit in with Americans or Latinos. For me, I feel like I stick out."
“When I was growing up, I never knew what we were going to have for dinner, tacos or lasagna that’s something that was exciting. I didn’t really realize until I was older, that there were two cultures in one house. Now it’s something that I really appreciate."
His grandmother (father’s mother) was what he called “very Mexican." “I remember eating tacos straight off the griddle," he said. Jordan remembers the smells in his grandmother's house and the fresh fruit. He also remembers the Mexican cookies and the spicy candy. "I remember so many Catholics. My family was Catholic."
He moved to Tennessee in 1996. Now he and his mother attend a Baptist church.
"We live a very Tennessean life. I’m trying to break out from that here at Vol State. I’m trying to reach out more to international people. That’s really the reason I got involved in the VISA club. Getting back in touch with people who have many more differences than myself."
Now focusing on trying to get more Americans involved in outreach, he is working with a group in Nashville called Interface. They are pairing international students with people from Tennessee.
“I just love getting with people and concurring the communication barrier. It’s something that I really love."
He attends several international events throughout the Nashville area, where he finds the ability to communicate with international students as a rewarding experience. He is trying to pass this on to other Vol State students in the VISA club.
“There are really refine and really valuable cultures that are out there besides what we have here in Tennessee and even what we have here in the United States."
The next VISA club meeting is October 23, 2012 in Ramer 156-B at 2:30 p.m.