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October 24, 2019

The City as a Classroom: Students Learn About Culture and History by Getting a Taste of Queens, New York

by Choya Randolph, MFA '18

Classes are usually held on campus in classrooms. But for students in Adelphi’s First-Year Seminars, they can also take place in the heart of the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. On September 21, about 40 first-year students explored culture and history by making Jackson Heights, Queens, their classroom. They got a taste of different countries, literally, enjoying sel roti, pandebono, and food from Bangladesh, Tibet, Gujarat and other nations.

After traveling by bus from Adelphi, the students were met by Laura Siciliano-Rosen, proprietor and food guide of Eat Your World, an international food tour company that spotlights local food in more than 150 cities. She introduced them to foods from five different restaurants.

“Visiting five different food venues and being able to sample cuisine from that culture was fascinating,” said first-year student Lauren Lavoie. “My favorite stop on the food tour was the Tibetan momos truck. I also enjoyed the Colombian cheese bread.”

After their food exploration, they headed to the Queens Museum to continue their exploration.

The idea for the Queens trip came from two First-Year Seminar instructors: sociology lecturer Sandra Castro and Jacqueline Olvera, PhD, assistant professor of sociology. Castro teaches New Immigrant New York, which explores the experience of second-generation immigrants and their engagement with American institutions. Dr. Olvera teaches Beliefs, Morals, and College Life, which investigates the beliefs and moral judgments of college life issues. Though the courses examine different topics, Castro and Dr. Olvera knew that the diversity of Queens would provide a unique and delicious lesson.

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Associate Dean Lawrence Hobbie, PhD, helped secure funding for the trip. Students hopped on an Adelphi bus and headed to Jackson Heights for the food tour. They enjoyed the food so much that Eat Your World featured student testimonials on its website.

When students went to the Queens Museum, they admired the Panorama of the City of New York, which provides a topographic view of the city with changing lights. They learned more about the history of New York through interesting maps and exhibits. Students also got to see the classic Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park up close.

“I found it exciting and scary to feel as if you are floating above the New York skyline,” said Lavoie. “While sitting by the fountain, my group watched a traditional African dance accompanied by African drummers. People stopped and my group was captivated by the performance.”

Students had a blast in the city, and so did their professors. Dr. Olvera enjoyed “seeing our first-year students build relationships while exploring the urban park and having ice cream after eating spicy food.” She saw the food tour as a great way to “break bread and build bonds” with her students. “That short visit was incredibly rewarding and eye-opening for students and myself,” said Castro.

“The visit to the Queens Museum showcased a couple of exhibits that highlighted the impact of new and old waves of immigration to New York City and especially Queens,” she added. “It helped build peer relations between students and with me as their instructor.”

First-year student Thomas Shameti said the trip “helped me make new friends, because I came to this trip not knowing anyone. Once I got there, I started interacting with my classmates and got to know them a bit more. I think the field trip really helped me to learn more about how diverse New York City is. I got to taste different types of food from five different cultures that I would’ve never imagined trying.”


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