Immigrant Literature students experience other cultures in the Twin Cities


Gunnar Lundberg

Immigrant Literature students visited the Hmongtown market during their field trip.

BSM’s Immigrant Literature class recently experienced a multitude of cultures on their class field trip. The class spent April 20 visiting cultural hot-spots scattered around the Twin Cities. Stops included the Somali Museum of Minnesota, the Hmongtown Market, the Hmong Cultural Center, Karmel Square, CLUES, and the Mercado Central. The purpose of the field trip was to help students see the multitude of growing diversity in the Twin Cities. With cultural and food stops intertwined, students got both a mouthful and an earful about different cultures present in the Twin Cities.

The trip began with a stop at the Somali Museum of Minnesota, where students learned about the history of Somalia. The museum was full of interesting artifacts, all of which provided meaningful insight on Somali culture. “It was cool seeing all the artifacts, and the tour guide really helped explain everything. He also shared his experiences in Somalia and coming to the US for the first time,“ BSM senior Elly Amighi said.

Another favorite stop was the Hmongtown market, where students received a tour of the multiple buildings and had time to shop and try various foods, of which a favorite was the traditional Hmong papaya salad. “It was really cool watching the cooks prepare the food right in front of you, it made me feel much closer to the culture, as opposed to just ordering take-out from a restaurant,” Amighi said.

It was like a miniature culture shock that gave us a small glimpse of what immigrants coming to America have to go through.”

— Belanger

The group stopped for lunch at Karmel Square, also known as the Somali Mall. Students enjoyed a trademark Somali meal of goat meat, rice, and banana. The unique dining experience allowed students to eat family style and enjoy different a different custom and cuisine. “We smiled, we nodded, and we guessed. It was like a miniature culture shock that gave us a small glimpse of what immigrants coming to America have to go through. Even something as simple as ordering a meal becomes a hurdle when you don’t know the language or customs,” Immigrant Literature teacher Ms. Katie Belanger said.

Each location paired with a book the class had been reading, so students had previously read about what they had a chance to experience first hand.  “One of the things that I think contributes to fear of other cultures, and especially the negative depiction of immigrants, is a lack of personal relationships. I wanted to create an opportunity to put a personal face on the cultures we were studying,” Belanger said.