Perhaps some international visitors to State College receive a formal orientation to American society and culture before they come here, and perhaps others have taken courses in American studies. In general, it is more likely that there are gaps in what such visitors know about the complexity and diversity of their host country.

The Global Connections small group Making Sense of the American Experience is designed to help fill those gaps. Each week, we discuss an issue inspired by current events, a participant’s question, or a national study. Our topics have ranged far and wide: gun violence and gun control, elections, the opioid crisis, immigration, the American dream, and freedom of expression, just to name a few.

Each session is a forum in which American residents in our community and people from other nations living here exchange views. In this way, everyone becomes a learner, hopefully better informed about the world and the diversity of views and values that motivate all of us.

Occasionally, we invite a guest speaker to lead the discussion. A Native American who works at Penn State and her teenage daughter told us about life on reservations and current concerns. An African American undergraduate shared her insights on race relations. The director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (now Centre Safe) told us about domestic abuse. A “native’ Pennsylvanian explained who the Pennsylvania Dutch are.

I would like to think that by-products of the discussion are greater empathy and sensitivity to perspectives and cultural values of others. We welcome any and all to join us on Tuesdays, noon to 1:00 PM, at the Municipal Building. Sessions have been paused for the summer, but we will start up again in the fall. 

  • Bob Persiko