Toutons Rock Newcomers' World!
From Jigg’s Dinner to lobster to bakeapples, Laura Spiller has made a point to sample signature Newfoundland fare in the eight months she’s lived in St. John’s. But it was the suggestion she try toutons that inspired an event celebrating diversity.
More than a just a tasty meal, Ms. Spiller recognized that the humble touton could be a good introduction to Newfoundland culture for students from around the globe.
“It’s fried bread dough … how can that be a bad thing?” said the Faculty of Business Administration student, originally from the United States. “Most cultures have their version of bread, and toutons are one of Newfoundland’s. It’s a fundamental way to make a cultural connection. ”
As a means of welcoming new international students to Memorial and connecting Newfoundland and Canadian students with the international community on campus, Ms. Spiller organized the Rocking Toutons event earlier this summer. The informal gathering brought together dozens of international students, their domestic counterparts and Memorial staff and faculty to feast on freshly-prepared toutons – Newfoundland pancakes fried in butter and served with thick, brown molasses. Tim Horton’s coffee and an all-Canadian playlist lent a touch of Canadiana to the event at the University Centre on the St. John's campus.
“Most people liked the toutons, but the molasses I think may be more of an acquired taste,” Ms. Spiller observed.
Rocking Toutons was supported by a Global Engagement Grant (GEG), a program designed to help students organize internationally-focused initiatives that enhance intercultural understanding.
By providing opportunities for new and varied cultural experiences, International Centre director Sonja Knutson said the GEG program and similar initiatives foster a greater appreciation of different cultures and highlight the value of diversity.
“Food is always an excellent way of bringing people together and activities like the Rocking Toutons event welcome international students to Memorial," said Ms. Knutson. "They are also a chance for Newfoundland and Canadian students to interact with other cultures in an informal environment that is comfortable for them.”
Such "at home" international experiences are also a helpful way for students to acquire intercultural skills and to open up to other opportunities for international experience, including study abroad and international volunteer programs.
“Diversity benefits everyone,” Ms. Knutson said. “Experiencing new cultures and meeting new people can be as important a part of a university education as gaining knowledge and learning new ideas.”