Food event provides ingredient for cultural ties

Marketing student and SPICED Volunteer, Hoang Nguyen (middle) enjoys cooking at one of the recent events. COMMUNITY
Marketing student and SPICED Volunteer, Hoang Nguyen (middle) enjoys cooking at one of the recent events.

A series of free cooking demonstrations focusing on a different region of the world every three to four weeks has become one of the most popular events on the student calendar.

SPICED events have been attended by up to 500 people and have cultivated a shared understanding of what makes the UniSA community unique.

UniSA Business School Student Engagement Officer Olexij Straschko says SPICED has connected students and cultures, while inspiring healthy eating.

“We were motivated by the need to encourage healthy eating and the impact that nutritional value can have on student energy levels and alertness,” Straschko says.

“Often we’d see student shopping trolleys filled with two minute noodles – students don’t always have a very healthy diet, nor the skills to cook for themselves in a healthy manner, so this is where SPICED came in.

“At the SPICED events, students get to learn new skills, enjoy cultural dancing and interact over free food, which connects them.”

Since its inception in late 2014, SPICED has built communities within and between cultures, served as a meeting place outside of the classroom, and cultivated a shared understanding of what makes the UniSA lifestyle unique.

Marketing student and SPICED Volunteer, Hoang Nguyen, has reaped the benefits as an international student.

“I’ve learnt how to work in an English-speaking environment, manage an event, enhance my networking and make new friends,” says Hoang.

“I feel like the University has created a great sense of community for us – making it an enjoyable place to be. Given most international students don’t have families here, SPICED helps create one.”

Invitations are also extended to student clubs to help plan events, empowering them to work with local businesses in their network and coordinate cultural activities.

President of the UniSA Afghan Students Association, Rahima Wahidi was involved in the recent Central Asian themed event, which was even attended by students from other universities.

“We had a great turnout and it was a night full of fun with traditional Afghan food, music and dance – the feedback was very positive, students enjoyed the night and wished there were more university events like it,” says Rahima.

“SPICED is a great event and shows Australia’s diversity and multiculturalism - it creates a sense of belonging which is key to a successful university life.”

Master of International Business Program Director Dr Mei Lim says staff can also benefit from the cultural experience and this same sense of belonging can contribute to healthy retention rates.

“From my experiences as an international student, I’m well aware of the importance of the sense of belonging that comes from having one’s culture valued and acquiring respect for other cultures,” Dr Lim says.

“I always look for opportunities to influence the overall academic, social and cultural experiences of our students.

“SPICED offers chances for staff to spend time with students – they get to learn more about them outside class time.

“Respect and support for development of students as individuals is a vital ingredient of excellent teaching.

“In addition to creating supportive classroom environments, events such as SPICED support student development and help maintain retention rates.”

SPICED is a free event held at the UniSA City West Student Lounge. It runs across selected Tuesdays, from 5-8pm. Find out more on the SPICED Facebook page. Master of International Business Program Director Dr Mei Lim provided a cake for a recent SPICED event.

Master of International Business Program Director Dr Mei Lim provided a cake for a recent SPICED event.

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