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Wednesday February 21, 2001

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UA students discuss the problems, rewards of dating across cultures

Headline Photo


International studies sophomore Lilach Shafir (right), directs questions to intercultural couple Nita Umashankar, a molecular and cellular biology junior (middle), and mathematics senior Andy Gulbis last night in the Cellar of the Memorial Student Union at the Intercultural Relationships Forum. The event was sponsored by Eye on Diversity, a committee of University Activities Board.

By Brooke Wonders

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Interracial couples say they can learn how to bridge differences

Call it amor or ahava - but to Kasho Santa Cruz and Katie Goldman, it's just love.

Santa Cruz and Goldman participated in the fourth annual Intercultural Relationships Forum last night in the Cellar of the Memorial Student Union. The forum, put on by the University Activities Board, was meant to encourage and support interracial dating, and to promote discussion on the issue of cultural difference.

About 80 students listened to the stories of five interracial or intercultural couples. Lilach Shafir, UAB's Eye on Diversity committee chair moderated the event.

Questions included everything from the couples' perspectives on public displays of affection, to how they deal with overlapping holidays, to how they met.

"In the beginning, it was odd," said Santa Cruz, a geosciences senior. "My mom was more shocked than my dad - when they met (Katie) she said 'you're dating her?' But now my mom treats her like a daughter."

Santa Cruz's family is Hispanic and Catholic, while Goldman, an agriculture senior, is Jewish.

"We learned a lot about each other, about being more open-minded," Goldman said. "His mother doesn't speak English - I'm learning Spanish. But it's scary talking - it's my boyfriend's mom."

Nita Umashankar, molecular and cellular biology junior, grew up in Tucson, but her family emigrated from Bombay, India, and she describes her culture as South Indian. Mathematics senior Andy Gulbis, her boyfriend of fourteen months, is also a Tucsonan, and a self-labeled "white boy."

"Our values are similar, but our traditions are different. Being Indian is my religion, more than being Hindu - so far away from my homeland, I try extra hard to preserve my culture," Umashankar said.

"I'm not allowed to bring him to certain functions - it hurts both of us a lot," she added. "It's up to us whether or not we go - in Indian culture, you don't stick it in people's faces, it's up to us to be polite. People look twice always. They make an extra effort to say 'it's so cute,' but that just points out our differences."

Computer science senior Burzin Engineer, an Indian student studying in the U.S., is dating Keiko Hasegawa, also a computer science senior, from Japan.

Hasegawa said one of her struggles associated with the relationship is the English language.

"I'm not always saying what I mean," she said, laughing.

"I eat a lot more Japanese food now," Engineer said. "But when I look at Keiko, I just see my girlfriend, not someone who is Japanese."



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