Liam Mullin / Equinox staff

Jackson Kulacz
Equinox Staff

Above all else, Keene State College’s campus provides an academic sanctuary for a myriad of faces from around the world. Yet, even with diversity, there are still some social setbacks. For many, the isolation makes it easier to feel detached from the world, especially with the mayhem of COVID-19. Perhaps, inquiring minds wants to discover what the world’s been hiding all this time. Maybe both?

Enter the Global Culture Club, or GCC.

Steve Spiegel, the club’s adviser said this closely-knit group of about 15 has existed on the campus for well over 15 years. The modern GCC has changed immensely over its tenure, having evolved from the International Friends Club of years past. Spiegel said “Sure, the name has changed, but the focus is still the same”, that being the promotion of the melting pot of nationalities that have residence on our campus, while showcasing the domestic American culture that harbors them.

Smriti Gurung, the current vice president, defines the group as “an inclusive place where individuals, whether they come from a different country or not, can feel safe,” and most notably, a place to “celebrate where they come from.”

While it is a formal club, not everyone sees it with all the formality. Jacqueline Pantano, the former club president until her graduation last December, didn’t see quite as much of the official, formal club status. “(It was) less of a club, but more of… a hang-out-and-meet-people place,” Pantano said, showcasing that it came together as one giant friend group.

Pantano explained that the old organization used to be limited to international students, but an exact timeframe of such practice is unknown. However, that has since changed over its evolution. The club isn’t limited to only international students anymore, as it blends in curious domestic students who want to share their own culture and learn about others. The active secretary, Cole Gesin, is one such individual, who said, “It teaches me, personally, about other cultures, and other people around the world. You have… people talking about themselves, and their own culture.” He continued, and with a smile on his face, laid it out in blunt, “It’s a great opportunity to… well, get cultured, for the lack of a better word.” He went on to put emphasis on their cultural depth, citing more obscure backgrounds “that often are not covered in media.”

The circumstances of joining their ranks are just as diverse as the nationalities the club contains, but oftentimes, the final rationale is very similar– collectively feeling detached from the broader world. For Cole, he felt “disconnected from the campus” and sought a place to turn to, as he admitted, “I felt like I didn’t belong there.” But, as he described, the sense of community helped him through it.

For Sarah Newell, the club’s Public Relations officer and commuter student, it was virtually the same idea. Both of them cited one chief characteristic; the “welcoming” atmosphere of inclusion.

For VP Smriti Gurung and adviser Steve Spiegel, their calling reportedly came from a sense of duty. Smriti had been in her high school’s international club for all four years, where, upon reaching college, she said, “I knew that I wanted to be involved in some sort of international role.” In Spiegel’s case, he explained that “I’ve been dealing with international students for a long, long time,” going further to cite his past, and that he has “lived in different parts of the world for much of my life.”

Due to COVID-19, the larger-scale events, such as the bonfires that could attract a hundred attendees or more, as described by Spiegel, are no longer allowed.

However, the smaller events continue around the clock. The club meets every Friday at 4 p.m., commonly in the Mountain View Room (student center, third floor). However, the location often changes due to what the board members (VP, secretary and PR officer) collectively described as “a long story”.

Nevertheless, this should not pose a deterrence or disruption to any curious recruit. The meeting and contact information can both be found on their OwlNet page. Whether they are international or not, the Global Culture Club treats everyone as one big family. It offers a place to share and be proud of where they come from– a safe harbor where everyone is appreciated for who they are.

 

Jackson Kulacz can be contacted at
jkulacz@kscequinox.com

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