Pool tourney blends cultures

This might not be as competitive as the Super Bowl – but it’s an important competition nonetheless.

Gannon University’s Campus Ministry, the International Student Office and the Activities Programming Board are co-sponsoring an international pingpong and billiards challenge 2 p.m. Sunday in the Waldron Campus Center game room.

The tournament aims to give international and American students a space to feel comfortable mingling with each other instead of only among themselves, said Brent Heckman, a resident campus minister.

“It’s natural for people to hang out with people who come from like situations as them,” he said. “It’s the natural tendency for people to stick with their native populations. But American students and international students should be doing stuff with one another.”

The tournament features snacks and door prizes for attendees, as well as prizes for the winners of the games. Registration runs from 1:30 to 1:50 p.m. and tournament play begins at 2 p.m.

Heckman noted that the event will help in one of the ISO’s goals to internationalize the campus.

“We have a growing international population on campus,” he said, “and I think we’d like to see more than just having them here – but also getting them integrated into the campus community.”

Jason Steinberg, associate director of the ISO, said the environment of a billiards or pingpong game is a great way to make cross-cultural connections. In class, he noted, the language barrier might make it difficult for international and American students to banter, while a just-for-fun sporting event creates an even playing field for all involved.

“Friendly competition is fun and exciting – and creates friends when done in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg, a world traveler himself, said the friendships he has forged with international friends have led to a job teaching English overseas, as well as fulfilling short-term employment opportunities on farms and even in a zoo.

“It is always valuable when we step out of our comfort zones in healthy ways,” he said. “Meeting an international GU student is a great way to do that.”

Steinberg said that international students who study in America often go home to take leadership positions in their native governments or in large, global corporations

“They turn to their American friends when their company wants to expand its market to our country,” he said.

So could an international corporate merger begin with a game of pool? Only time will tell.

Senior theater and communication arts major Lisa Lamperski said she’s more concerned with the compassionate goal of striking up a friendship with a person coming from a different background.

“A friend is a friend, no matter what culture you’re a part of,” she said. “It’s good to get the experience of hanging out with someone who lives a different life than you do.”


[email protected]