International Center in West Lafayette.

International Center: Place to Meet Friends and Learn Languages

Whether you are working on your English, learning a brand new language or just looking to make friendships with people from other countries, you should definitely check out the International Center (IC) @Purdue, conveniently located on the Purdue Campus, 523 Russell Street. Cozily hiding behind green trees, it offers a variety of classes and activities for all Purdue students and for those who are interested in other cultures. 

If you are new to Purdue and would like some English practice with friendly people and a leisurely discussion you would surely like to join one of four conversation groups and a causal atmosphere over coffee. People with any level of English will feel welcome! There are also options to attend English as a Second Language courses which run all year round. 

I really liked attending the Tuesday morning Conversations over Coffee where we made cute stuffed dolls and cards, ate cookies and even cooked meals. The IC has a spacious kitchen which allows to manage food preparation for a few dozen people. Every month you can enjoy a Global Cafe, presentation featuring some country and a chance to sample its traditional food. Also there are regular dinners for special occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Summer Supper series around 4th of July. You can be exposed to all sorts of traditional cuisine without having to leave campus.

After filling dinners and suppers, let’s get back to language classes! Should you want to learn a new language or practice other languages besides English, you can do that, too, since IC offers classes in Spanish, French, Chinese, to name a few. The list of offered classes is different each semester depending on the needs of the community. If your schedule is like mine and does not allow you to commit to a full course, you can attend a conversation group and learn at your own pace. Currently, there are French, Spanish and Japanese Conversations. I have been lucky to make friends at the French conversation group. My French is far from perfect and there are not too many chances to practice it in West Lafayette with native speakers, so having a place to come every Friday just to immerse yourself into French conversation is extremely helpful.

Another cool thing you can do at the IC is volunteering to teach your mother tongue to a group. I have taught Russian for four semesters and have found it a very rewarding experience. You only need to commit for one hour a week but the satisfaction you get from watching your students progress learning about your culture and language is tremendous. 

I cannot complete this post without mentioning the IC spotlight event of the year, Global Fest. It is a huge all-day-long fair with dozens of booths representing various countries where you can sample traditional food while listening to the live-music and shopping for souvenirs. Naturally, the little house behind the trees cannot accommodate all those tables so it is held in the open air of downtown West Lafayette. It’s a great way to make your weekend both fun and educational. All the profit is donated to the International Center to enable them to run another series of interesting free events for the community. 

The writer is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Purdue University.

Learn more about other cultural centers and graduate student opportunities at Purdue: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/

Rock Climbing Image.

Want to Start a New Sport? Climb with Us!

One of Purdue’s greatest facilities is Cordova Recreational Sports Center (CoRec), where students and faculty engage in various types of sports activities. It was renovated in 2012 and is now recognized as one of the best college recreation centers in the US (ranked 12th according to the website I came across: https://www.collegeconsensus.com/rankings/best-college-rec-centers/). It’s huge, and you never run out of things to do. One of the best things to do in CoRec is climbing as there are a big bouldering wall and top rope wall where you can climb for free (free entrance to CoRec as a student and free rental climbing shoes and gears) and make a lot of friends. If you’re looking for a new sport to start, I hope this blog can guide you to choose climbing.

Personally, I have been a relatively athletic kid, and I was in the track-and-field club for six years during junior and senior high school. But the training was too hard, and I didn’t find enough interest in it to continue after graduation. I would also enjoy seasonal sports, thanks to the rich nature in Japan, like surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. But I never had a sport that I engaged on a daily basis.

A year after I came to Purdue, my friend took me to the bouldering wall in CoRec. It didn’t take me weeks to fall in love with climbing. It’s like solving a puzzle. You have to try so many movements to find the correct one while trying to be as energy-efficient as possible. If you were a type of student who enjoyed solving math problems in high school like me, you’ll love bouldering too. Ever since I started climbing, I have been climbing three times a week, without missing any sessions unless I’m sick.

Th bouldering wall at the CoRec.

Climbing is a hot sport. The climbing population is increasing worldwide, and new gyms are opening everywhere. It’s going to be in the Olympics this year (2020) for the first time, and we climbers are all so excited about it. In most cases, indoor climbing has three components: bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing. Bouldering is on a relatively low wall, and thus you don’t have to use a rope. Top rope and lead climbing are on a tall wall where you have to use a rope. The difference between top rope and lead climbing is how you, as a climber, are belayed through rope. Lead climbing involves more risky and tricky belaying technique, but more advanced than top tope. In general, bouldering requires more technical and dynamic movements (like a math problem, and thus I enjoy bouldering more than rope climbing), and rope climbing requires endurance (anaerobic vs. aerobic).

Let me give you interesting info here (from IFSC website):

National team ranking for bouldering and lead climbing 2019

  1. Japan, Japan (bouldering, lead)
  2. Slovenia, Slovenia
  3. France, South Korea
  4. Austria, USA
  5. Germany, Austria

Yes, I’m trying to show you how awesome Japan is for climbing, but also, some of you may be thinking “but I’ve watched Alex Honnold’s Free Solo, and I think there are many strong American climbers too”. Yes, that is true. That’s where outdoor climbing comes in. Places like the US, Europe (like Spain), and South America, are where many people climb rocks outdoors because of their beautiful nature (availability of “climbable” rocks). Therefore, there are so many strong famous rock climbers in the US, but not many of them participate in international climbing competitions, which is all about indoor climbing. In countries like Japan, meanwhile, there are not as many places to climb outside (because of nature, but sometimes also because of inaccessibility to rocks), and indoor climbing is more popular.

If you think you’re more of an outdoor person, there is a famous rock climbing spot in Kentucky called Red River Gorge. It’s about 5 hours driving from Purdue, and they often have international visitors too. It’s so much fun to make a weekend trip out there with climbing friends. In any case, if you want to start indoor climbing or outdoor climbing, I will always be happy to show you, or just talk to random people at the CoRec wall. The climbing community is full of nice people, and they are always happy to welcome new climbers.

The writer is a Ph.D. candidate in Forestry at Purdue University.

Learn more about other graduate student organizations at Purdue here: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/student/organizations/index.html