Students See Value in Cultural Exchange More than Ever


2 minutes

Many young people go abroad to expose themselves to new cultures and new experiences. But students at California State University at East Bay are finding ways to enjoy cultural exposure from home as well.

The Newark, California Patch reports that CSU East Bay's student-run newspaper, The Pioneer, has now released its first bilingual edition.

Though the paper is associated with the school, it gets distributed throughout the surrounding towns of Hayward, Newark, Union City Fremont and Castro Valley. These areas boast a sizable Hispanic population, many of whom speak and read limited English.

To better bring important news to the Hispanic community, the paper's editors decided to put together a four-page section of translated articles. The project proved to be a challenge for the small paper, even with a number of Spanish-speaking writers. The group quickly realized the difference between speaking, reading or writing Spanish and putting together a Spanish-language publication.

"The only thing I was concerned about was the grammar and how the language was going to be perceived in the community and if we made a lot of mistakes, it may make people not take us seriously," editor-in-chief Natalia Aldana told Patch. "Luckily there weren't a lot of mistakes."

Despite the challenges, the paper's leadership felt the project was important both for the service it provided the community and the cultural exposure it gave students.

"I'm really proud of it, I'm really excited about it and that's what being students in the university can do - you get to experiment and try," Gale Young, head of the Communication Department at CSU East Bay, told the news source.

The opportunity to gain exposure to different ideas and unique perspectives is a crucial element of the college experience. When Young took over the Communication Department, she made improving diversity at the department's publication an important goal, adding new writers and new leadership. The results were the school's first bilingual publication.

With the growing Hispanic population in the U.S. and the importance of bilingualism and cultural understanding in the professional sphere, experiments like this one at CSU East Bay are becoming a crucial part of students' education and exposure.

Although the Institute of International Education's Open Doors research found that more than 270,000 students in the U.S. studied abroad in 2009-2010, this number represents only a small percentage of all college students.  While bilingual publishing is one method of improving cultural exposure, international exchange organizations and funding for international pursuits are even more tangible ways for students to learn about other cultures.

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