Hashi: only cultural diversity themed Special Interest Housing

The name is Hashi and it means bridge in Japanese.

Hashi is this year’s only cultural diversity-themed Special Interest Housing (SIH) group at the University of Miami, and the name  reflects organizers’ vision to serve as a link between different cultures and help residents learn more about different countries.

Last year, when the selection committee found out the previous student diversity themed floor called “La Casa” wasn’t reapplying, SIH coordinator Emily Vaughan looked around for another multicultural themed residential group to fill that newly opened void.

Hashi’s application for a cultural diversity floor stood out to Vaughan.

“I have great expectations since they are very organized and have clear goals,” Vaughan said. “Usually first-year floors use the first semester to try out programs and then hit the second semester running because they have more experience then. But the e-board of Hashi has a lot of enthusiasm; they are very motivated.”

Submitted by a group of friends whose initial motivation for applying was simply to live on a floor together with a purpose, Hashi has transformed from merely an idea to an official 24-member floor on the second floor of Pearson Residential College.

As a university that was ranked No. 1 in cultural diversity by The Princeton Review, UM is known for its multicultural student body, and as written in the University’s Mission, is “proud of our diversity of our University family.”

To be the only multicultural group on campus that is in charge of actively demonstrating and encouraging students how to live and learn student diversity this year puts a lot of pressure on the Hashi executive board.

With no previous experience in organizing a SIH floor, Hashi President Sophie Trautschold, a sophomore, agrees that while it’s still a learning process for her, it’s fun to meet people and find out their reasons for joining Hashi in the first place.

“I think everyone on the floor is extremely interested in learning about different countries and having fun while doing it,” she said.

Most special interest floors aimed at celebrating culture and diversity in the past have been geared towards a specific culture and not international diversity as a whole. Hashi on the other hand, applied last academic year to be a floor that encompasses a wide range of cultures, and its members certainly reflect that goal.

“It’s about learning about different countries,” explained Trautschold, who is from Florida. “We have a lot of diverse people on the floor, they can bring different aspects of their background. We have people from China, Japan, South America and different parts of America, people who have visited and lived in other countries, too.”

Having that diversity at UM and on the floor is what attracted some of the members to join.

Sophomore Cyndi Poon, also from Florida, came to Miami looking for international students, people with different backgrounds.

A member of some multicultural clubs on campus, Poon felt that being a part of Hashi would help her live the experience of student diversity.

“In a club you don’t get to see the people every day, you just see them at the event,” Poon said. “But just by living on the floor you’re living with a bunch of different cultures, just by stepping into someone else’s room I see how they live.”

From simply seeing and comparing her roommate’s Japanese art covered room to the simplistic decorations of some of her floormates, Poon feels that this is part of experiencing cultural diversity, an experience she wouldn’t have gotten if she didn’t live in Hashi.

It’s not just living with each other that promotes cultural diversity, though. SIH floors have to organize programs to achieve their goal and Hashi assigned each month to a different culture. They try out that culture’s food and have foreign movie nights, language classes, all to help members learn about different countries and their practices.

Members, too, can contribute to how they want to learn. Some want to learn through ethnic foods. Others through dance. Hashi Vice President Christopher Hill, a sophomore from Mississippi, said the executive board will usually try to accommodate members’ ideas when it comes to floor programming.

“The expectation of Hashi is to have an awesome time,” Hill said. “To meet amazing people, to learn about a lot of cultures and learn more about myself and hope that everyone just takes something from the community.”

Esther Pang may be contacted at epang@themiamihurricane.com.