Learning America

By By Jenny Bloyer

By Jenny Bloyer

Elaine Antunes, president of the International Women’s Association, said it is not usual to hang wreaths on the doors for Halloween in her native Brazil.

But to learn some new American traditions, she and the other international women around her decorated wreaths and participated in several other traditions to learn more about American culture.

The event was part of an IWA meeting, an association at the U for women from all over the world to have the chance to learn from one another and create friendships.

The women were also taught balloon twisting from South Korean Yeong Oh and were visited by executive director of Intermountain Therapy Animals, Kathy Klotz, who brought with her a basset hound named Grace to interact with the attendees.

Valerie Green, the manager of Residential Life at the U Student Apartments, said the IWA was started by a group of wives whose husbands were in the master’s program, and then it broadened into all international women.

“It’s turned out to be a great social group for trailing spouses who are not allowed to work,” Green said.

Those who attend the activities range in all ages and ethnicities.

“When they invited me to my first activity, it was all about just cooking; after a while, I thought, ‘OK, cooking is boring; let’s do something different,'” Antunes said.

She now arranges a variety of activities for the women, including emergency preparation, pottery, practicing English skills and talking with one another about health issues.

“Cooking is interesting, but it is not our main focus anymore,” said Anjali Pai Hammond, coordinator of international programs. “A lot of times in other countries, women’s health issues are not openly discussed, and it is fascinating to hear about it from all over the world.”

Hammond also said she believes it is beneficial for women to come and hear about these kinds of issues.

Many of the women who attend the meetings are spouses of students at the U and are looking for social interaction, as well as a chance to learn from other cultures. “A lot of these women are on visas where they can’t work or study, so they like coming here to socialize,” Hammond said.

Emi Alley, who is from Japan and is married to nursing student George Alley, has been attending IWA meetings for about a year. Alley said she enjoys coming to the activities to learn about other cultural traditions, and she enjoys being taught from other people about what they do.

Alley said she had never heard of animals being used for therapy and enjoyed petting Grace. “I love animals, but this is hard because I miss my animals back in Japan. My cat was always with me. I miss her,” Alley said.

Brenda Burton, who is from Utah and whose husband is a senior studying engineering, just attended her first IWA meeting. “I came because I wanted to see what it was like and also just to meet people,” Burton said.

IWA meetings are held at the West Community Center at the University Student Apartments every third Friday. The next meeting will be Nov. 17, when the lesson will be pie-making traditions, and participants will make pumpkin pie.

For more information, visit www.utah.edu/iwa.

Kim Peterson

Graduate student Natalia Ralyk learns wreath making from International Women’s Association president, Elaine Antunes.

Kim Peterson

Japanese native, Kaoiri Endo and native of Korea MinYoung Lee create traditional American wreaths for Halloween as part of an International Women’s Association activity, Friday at the West Community Center of the University Student Apartments.