Students take in Erie culture

Several members of Gannon University’s international community recently went on an excursion to enjoy one of Erie’s local draws – a major junior ice hockey game.

Tim Hartigan, the new director of Gannon’s ESL program, took a group of students to the Erie Otters’ March 13 game against the London Knights of Ontario.

Although the 3-1 verdict did not go in the home team’s favor, Hartigan, who has been on the job just two months, said the outing was a win for the international students in attendance, none of whom had ever seen a live hockey match before.

The students, who represented the cultures of India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China, said that they had little exposure to hockey in their native countries, where most of them cited soccer and basketball as the most popular sports to play and watch.

Freshman Mohammed Babgi said that he had seen a hockey game once or twice on television, but was not sure of what to expect from a live game.

“On TV, I thought it looked exciting,” he said.

Several other students who attended the evening’s matchup, Ali Alquraish and Qiang Hu, said that they were hoping to see a scuffle between some of the players, as they have heard it is one of the quirky characteristics unique to the sport.

They were not disappointed, as Hartigan said there was a skirmish toward the end of the game.

“The guys all went home happy,” he said.

One even went home with a souvenir – a T-shirt that had been tossed into the crowd by the Zamboni driver. The students also made an appearance on the scoreboard while they danced in the stands during part of the game.

Prior to heading over to the Erie Insurance Arena, Hartigan held a short preparatory session for the students to attend so that he could give a short, interactive presentation about what the sport entails.

Not only did he explain the rules, game play and equipment, he also brought in several hockey sticks, pucks and lightweight whiffle balls for the students to try their hands at.

The students also watched short YouTube clips of Connor McDavid, one of the Otters’ rising stars. Hartigan told his students that they can celebrate the same way as McDavid if they study enough.

“If you get 100 on a test, you can do a dance too,” he said.

Janak Ukani, a Gannon student from India, said that he found the informational session very helpful before actually attending the game.

“I was excited for everything,” he said. “The lesson helped me learn more, because at first I was very confused.”

Hartigan said his goal not only for that evening but for the future of the program is to help immerse Gannon’s international populace in not only academic culture, but American culture, as well.

“It helps with retention, too,” he said. “If they feel bonded to Erie, they’ll be more likely to stay.”

The 32 tickets Hartigan received from the Otters were distributed to the eight ESL instructors, who could then use them as incentives for achieving good test grades, or could simply give them to a student they believe has worked hard and who has an interest in hockey.

In addition to the opportunity for a new cultural experience, Hartigan said the game also simply provided an outlet for relaxation.

“These guys study all the time,” he said. “They need a little fun.”

 

CHRISTINE PEFFER

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