Around the World in 80 Minutes showcases variety of cultures

Professor Yuko Prefume teaching how to make Japanese caligraphy. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Journalist

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer

Students took a whirlwind tour of countries and cultures in Around the World in 80 Minutes, an event put on by the Center for Global Engagement’s International Education Week.

International Education Week is dedicated to exposing students to different world cultures, and is “a week of events at Baylor that promotes and celebrates international exchange worldwide.” Wednesday evening’s Around the World in 80 Minutes event combined the week’s themes into a rapid-fire series of seminars.

Professors in classrooms scattered throughout Old Main presented short presentations on the history, language, and culture of different countries. Tiziano Cherubini, a lecturer of Italian with the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, spoke briefly about Italy’s history. Cherubini said Italy lead the way in developing institutions we take for granted today.

“You might not know this, but the very first university in the world, in history, was in Bologna, and it opened in 1088… and it’s still there,” Cherubini said. “The very first bank was in Italy. It opened in 1406 in Genoa.”

Countries and cultures from around the world were represented, with presentations dedicated to Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Morocco, China, Japan and one dedicated to Portuguese-speaking countries.

Tracey Jones, a Spanish lecturer, led the Costa Rica presentation. Jones said the Costa Rican dialect offers a few unique phrases, the first being the versatile “pura vida,” meaning “pure life.”

“If you’re met by some misfortune, your response to it might just be ‘pura vida,’” Jones said. “You can also do it if someone says como estas (how are you), you can say ‘pura vida’…you walk in late? ‘Pura vida’…if anybody is ugly towards you you can just say ‘pura vida,’ and that takes it away.”

Another Costa Rican phrase, “mae,” is the equivalent of “dude,” Jones said.

When presenting on Morocco, Lynn Whitcomb, a senior lecturer in Arabic, focused on the country’s political and religious characteristics. She said that before the founding of the modern Israeli state, Morocco had the largest Jewish population of any Muslim-majority country. Whitcomb said the country’s political system was another of its unique traits.

“[Morocco is] fascinating from the standpoint of its current political system,” Whitcomb said. “It has some aspects of a representative democracy in terms of having a parliament and electing people to the parliament, but it is at its core also a monarchy and continues to have a king, and that system seems to be pretty durable.”

Part of exploring the cultures of other countries is learning about their food. Associate professor of French Cristian Bratu focused on one of Switzerland’s most famous exports: chocolate.

“You can make fondue with chocolate, right? So normally you make fondue with cheese… but you can do the same thing with chocolate,” Bratu said. “A lot of chocolate makers in Switzerland make chocolate that you can eat and then a special type of chocolate for fondue.”

A full schedule of International Education Week’s events can be found on the Baylor website.