Barriers broken between students and citizens

Oct 15, 2019

The town and gown divide in Dartmouth received a blow on Tuesday as two international graduate students from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth shared their cultures with members of the community.

Deepika Saple from India and Prince Ohaegbu from Nigeria presented information about their home countries to the public at the Council on Aging in an event that brought students and townspeople together.

The students are both completing MBAs at the school.

Baby boomers and millennials chatted over coffee and pastries, which included Nigerian shuku shuku or coconut balls and Indian bread kaja, or fried bread with cardamom syrup and pistachios.

Both dishes were made by students at the UMass Dartmouth nursing school for the occasion.

“I’m always trying to get UMass and the town to work together,” explained Cynthia Marland, Director of Media for the Town of Dartmouth. “There was an incentive from the Chancellor’s office to get some of the students out here into the public...So this is one of the first ways that we’re opening that invitation up to get people involved.”

Marland and Sarah Knarr from UMass Dartmouth’s Navitas Global Student Success Program spoke briefly before introducing the guest speakers.

Saple spoke about her hometown of Mumbai and showed photos of her family and her former school before touching on topics as diverse as India’s mythology, major tourist attractions, festivals, food, dancing, sports, movies, and more.

She also told the legend of the holy river Ganges, describing how a king prayed to Lord Shiva for relief from drought, and Shiva answered by letting the mighty river flow through his hair and into India.

In his presentation Ohaegbu discussed the economic and political aspects of Nigeria.

He described how his country used to be the breadbasket of West Africa before oil was discovered and transformed the economy.

Ohaegbu also touched on the country’s flora and fauna, its modern history and the effects of British colonization, and notable personalities from Nigeria ⁠— including Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.

After the presentations the audience asked dozens of questions about getting a U.S. degree, the application process for attending college in the States, and languages, among others.

“I think it should be an ongoing series,” said audience member George Wilkie after the event. “I’m very pleased that there has been more interaction between UMD and the town of Dartmouth.”

The sentiment was echoed among other guests. “I hope they have more of them,” said Laurie Andrews. “It was interesting. Learned some things today.”

“It went off really well,” said Saple. “It was really nice meeting all the people.”

Ohaegbu agreed. “Overall, I liked the questions,” he said with a smile. “They were very challenging, which is what I wanted. There were a bunch of questions.”

Both of the students said they want to work in the U.S. to gain experience after earning their degrees, and they both expressed their admiration of Dartmouth and the South Coast.

“Horseneck beach is one of my favorite places,” said Ohaegbu. “Dartmouth being a quiet, a calm place was one of my reasons for coming here. I love the town.”

“It’s beautiful! I love Padanaram harbor,” said Saple. “And Dartmouth police are handsome.”