KOKOMO, Ind. — Pizza – the food that bridges cultural differences.
Language barriers were overcome as students placed a variety of vegetables, grated manchego cheese, and cilantro to create a sushi rice vegetarian pizza.
The global nutrition class at Indiana University Kokomo made more than pizzas with their counterparts from South Korea – they were building friendships as well.
Korean exchange student Tam Seul Shin, or Tammy, said she is not a good cook, but enjoyed the chance to meet other students.
“I want to get to know them, and to learn more,” she said. “I am having an adventure, and learning about how I do in a new place I haven’t been before.”
The exchange students, from Jesus University and Sungshin Women’s University, worked in groups with the class in the new food and nutrition lab located in the Main Building.
Kim Mossburg, visiting lecturer of nutritional science, said it’s easier to break the ice with someone you’ve never met when you have something to do.
“It’s easier to interact with someone new when you have a common task,” she said. “I wanted them to share an experience, to build friendships.”
As IU Kokomo student Drew Fowler and Jee Eun Kang, who Americanized her name to Jessie, pressed sushi rice into a cookie sheet to create a pizza crust, they also talked about cooking methods, exchanging tips for healthier food preparation.
Kang said it was the first time she’s made pizza with rice, but she expected it would be tasty. She thought making pizza together was a good way to meet others on campus.
“We can participate in a project and make friends while we do it,” she said.
Mossburg said she had communicated with the exchange students’ instructor before they arrived in the United States, and learned that Korean young people are starting to adopt more Western eating habits, which are less healthy than their traditional diet.
She decided both groups could learn something about changing recipes to make better choices, and found pizza recipes featuring whole grain crusts, and unique toppings, such as spinach, goat cheese, cashews, blueberries, cucumbers, mango, carrots, cauliflower, and other vegetables.
As a health science major, with a concentration in nutrition, Brandon Whitehead found the healthier pizza recipes interesting.
“I like it, it’s totally different from our western diet,” he said. “This is healthier for you than our traditional pizza and it tastes good.”
He worked with two Korean nursing students, and said while the communication was difficult at first, they were able to understand each other. He appreciated the chance to hear their ideas on diet and nutrition.
“It’s good to see things from a totally different perspective,” he said. “They eat a healthier diet in their country than we do.”
Linda Wallace, dean of the School of Nursing, began the exchange program with South Korea in 2000, beginning with a faculty exchange. Since then, the campus has hosted about a dozen students and faculty members for two weeks each spring semester, and taken IU Kokomo students to South Korea during the summer.
In addition to visiting nursing classes, the South Korean students joined Spanish and radiology classes. They also will make Valentines, visit the Logansport Carousel, participate in nursing clinical rotations at area hospitals, attend a concert at The Palladium in Carmel, cheer at a Cougar basketball game and experience a Thanksgiving meal.
Se-Ung Lee, a South Korean businessman and philanthropist, has supported the program for 14 years with grant funding.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.