In keeping with the spirit and theme of the International Week celebration, "Your World, Your Story," Outlook invited nine individuals -- some from other countries, some from the United States with international experiences -- to interview one another on camera.
Today's video features Cleveland native Matt Rapposelli and Haroon Rashid, originally from Nagarhar, Sherzad, Afghanistan. Read a transcript of their conversation:
Matt: What is one cultural tradition that you've experienced here that has differed from your own and how has it influenced you, either good or bad?
Haroon: There are many cultural values that differ from my country. The family system is totally different from ours. The relationship between girls and boys is totally different from my country. We don't have the sexes intermingling in Afghanistan; we have segregation between the sexes in Afghanistan. So it was a bit of a cultural shock to me when I found many girls around me in my school, in my classroom. That was totally different for me.
Matt: When you found out that you were going to be coming to the U.S. to study, how did your family react to that, knowing that you were going to be coming here for that length of time?
Haroon: It was one of my plans to go to the United States to study. We don't have master's degree programs in our country. We have only a (bachelor's) degree. For many years, I was thinking that I could study in the United States.
My family did not agree, especially my wife and my mother. They were thinking something unpleasant about the western culture. They were thinking that people might get lost there, that they will forget their families -- their children, their wives. That they would be free from their obligations. I convinced them, and I told them that I will be the same person. It was kind of difficult for me to decide.
Matt: What's your favorite thing about the U.S. since you've been here?
Haroon: I was invited (to the United States) by an American host family in Chicago. I stayed with that family for almost two weeks. The interaction between family members was amazing. The interaction between wife and husband, between parents and children, they were amazing. It shaped my life. Before, I was thinking that maybe the relationships between members of the family will not be that strong in this community, but it was my misunderstanding of the family system in America. It was amazing for me. The strong relationship, the loving relationship, it changed my misconception.
Haroon: Why did you choose Ohio for your job?
Matt: I am originally from Cleveland. I came down here to go to school at Hocking College. I got a degree in something completely different -- in recreation and wildlife management. From there I went and worked for the National Park Service here in the U.S. I was working out in Washington state and I really loved it, it was a great area. But I would always keep coming back to Athens to visit. I really got the bug for university towns. I discovered that no matter where I went, I was always drawn to a university town. Coming back to Athens each time was great. We lived in Vermont, Washington and Florida, and Athens kept drawing us back, so my family ended up moving back here.
Haroon: How has your profession shaped your daily life?
Matt: It's all positive. My family has been in the food business forever; we've had multiple generations in the food business. I was the first one to try to get out of it and not do something involving food. But being drawn back into it, what has positively influenced me are the people that I meet -- just an incredible amount of people -- and particularly people from other countries, other nationalities, which I love more than anything. That's by far the best part about this job. It enables you to go anywhere, meet people all over the place, and have a common bond.
Haroon: What do international students mean to you?
Matt: I love the interaction with them; it's one of the best parts of my job. What I work with international students for is mainly for special events. They will come in the kitchen to do their prep for some of their larger meals. I absolutely love the buzz and the electricity when they are in the kitchen. Their awe from maybe having their entire life prepared a food on very small equipment for very few people, to getting them into a kitchen with very large equipment and going through a process very quickly and the fascination of it all. That's what I like best.