Economics Fellow from Russia Helps Promote Cultural Understanding
Behruz Himo, an economics fellow from Russia studying at Western Illinois University (WIU), participated in the Center for International Studies’ Conversational Partners Program for international students. According to Mr. Himo, the Conversational Partners Program “is an excellent opportunity to explore American culture and people, improve English language skills and simply make new friends.” During the spring semester Mr. Himo presented information about Russia and Russian culture to two conversational partners. Mr. Himo noted that, “Although they didn’t know each other both were especially interested in my religion and had a lot of similar questions about it. By the end of the semester we became close friends, and gladly, many stereotypes about Islam and Russia were dissolved. I felt this was a grass-roots level of bridging gaps between not only two great countries but the two great civilizations.” Mr. Himo’s experience speaking with his conversational partners engendered a desire to further promote mutual understanding between people of different cultures and religions. As a result, Mr. Himo partnered with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) of WIU to invite interested professors and their classes to the Islamic Center of Macomb. The event was a success. According to Mr. Himo, “As a result more than 120 undergraduate and graduate students had a chance to visit the mosque and meet their Muslim peers, eat pizza and have a friendly discussion about Islam. Several weeks after these gatherings, respective professors e-mailed the MSA feedback from the students who took part in the event and I realized what amazing results this kind of simple meetings bring."