Name: Elvin Vindel
Major: Civil engineering
Country of Origin: Honduras
Please describe aspects of your culture that are different from the United States.
Latin American culture is mostly guided by a sense of community and rejoicing. Even though it seems counterintuitive, given the state of the country, happiness is usually always present. In the U.S., these inherent joys are lacking. The majority of cultural differences are founded on the difference of wealth between the U.S. and Honduras. The U.S., being a more "developed" culture, strives for self-actualization in terms of material things. In Honduras, while this can be the case, self-fulfillment is usually not found in the material, but in the relational and spiritual. Another thing to note is that the Honduran culture is filled with American culture. While going to Honduras is often a culture shock for Americans, I was already very familiar with American culture when I came to college.
What do you miss from home?
Family. There is nothing else more important to me than family. However, that is not just my flesh and blood. The term family, to me, encapsulates my nuclear family, extended family and close friends. It’s shocking to grow up with people for the majority of your life and, in just a moment, not see them for more than a year. Even though friends fill this emotional need in my heart, there still something missing.
What’s hard about living so far away?
The hardest part is probably the travel expenses that directly impact how many times I go back home. In the past two and a half years I have only been back once.
What do you feel Calvin College and its student body do well with being inclusive and culturally respectful?
I think Calvin does a great job in being inclusive. There are dozens of events created specifically to include the international community. People participate openly and engage in these events with keen interest and passion. I think there are some barriers that haven't been broken yet, especially when studying the larger international communities with many students from a similar background. This sometimes causes unintentional alienation.
What do you feel Calvin College and its student body do poorly with being inclusive and culturally respectful?
The one issue that Calvin does poorly is keeping things in social bubbles. These bubbles naturally form around people that share a similar background. For example, students from Korea typically hang out with each other and talk Korean. Then, there are students from the same high school that only spend time together and fail to branch out. Though I can identify these as things that shouldn't exist, I can't find an off-the-textbook solution to it. Group bubbles are the natural tendency to social equilibrium. It is hard to fight something so natural in our society.
Have you ever felt left out or not included based on your culture?
Maybe I have, but not that I'm aware of.
What are some things you want people at Calvin to know about your culture and the life of an international student?
If you marry us, you have residency in another country and an escape route from Trump ... just kidding. I would say that there is importance to knowing that culture is not just what we see. For example, when one thinks of the Mexican culture, one thinks sombreros, tacos, festivals, etc. However, actually growing up in Mexico is much more than just the "cultural facade" we see. Culture is much more than the basic stereotypes, and people should recognize that.