International students explore their culture through cuisine


Roberto Hodge | The Daily Eastern News Kalpana Pinninty and Anusha Pakalapati, both gradute technology majors from India enjoy a laugh at the Curry House event Thursday.

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Nazmi “Cem” Turker, 24, left Istanbul on Aug. 18 and touched down in the United States the very same day.

The flight lasted 18 hours, but he didn’t care; he was excited to arrive at Eastern.

According to Kevin Vicker, the director of international student scholars, Turker is one of nearly 115 international students who lived in Lawson Hall temporarily until the start of the semester.

Turker said he was unsure of how he felt during the trip because everything was so surreal.

“It’s like a rush,” Turker said. “You don’t actually ask yourself ‘how am I doing?’”

His flight from Turkey took him to Amsterdam, Detroit and Chicago. Then he took a shuttle to Charleston.

Despite going through the many time zones and obvious culture differences between the two countries, Turker said he feels comfortable at Eastern and in the Charleston community.

“It was really exciting to see the school. I like the people (and) everyone has been so friendly,” he said.

Traveling across the world to the U.S. surely is not an easy task, and Turker could attest to that. He said in order to be at Eastern, he first needed to apply for a Visa and obtain a passport and a plane ticket.

However, before he could do any of those things, he needed to get accepted into the institution, which he did, and into the graduate program for clinical psychology.

“It was a crazy day,” Turker said.

Luckily for Turker, the Christian Community Church was hosting its third annual Curry House event, which is used to connect international students and Charleston residents through food from various countries and through socializing.

The Rev. Sangram Kodavatikanti was in charge of the Curry House, which was free to the public.

“I felt like I could bless them by serving Indian food,” Kodavatikanti said. “I’m trying to be a bridge from the international students to the church.”

More than 200 people were present at the church event, all representing many different countries such as Nepal, India, Saudi Arabia and even Germany.

With so many counties and food items in the small basement space, the room looked like the United Nations except with a hint of spice and seasoning present in the air.

Kodavatikanti, who is from India, said he came to the United States in 2000. He has an American wife whom he met on a missionary trip in India in ’97.

Not only does he feel that he and his church can best serve the international students with food, Kodavatikanti said they also help them in more practical ways.

They act as a shuttle for the students by taking them back and forth between Wal-Mart and the airport. The church also drives them to Chicago when it is necessary.

Kodavatikanti said at one point in time, they used to offer driving lessons to the international students, but because of liability reasons, they had to end the service.

Kodavatikanti said the event is a way to allow American students and international students to interact.

“I just want the community to know we have tons of students; we need to pray for their safety and we’re here to serve them,” Kodavatikanti said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]