ICO to discuss Taiwanese culture, make Boba tea


International Cultural Organization members junior Aleena Li, sophomore Grace Schondelmuyer, and senior Beatrice Rotondi peel potatoes. The potatoes had to be sliced and peel so they could be easily grilled. The club ate and prepared biryani, a traditional Iraqui dish.

Will Cover

Although Taiwan is 7500 miles from Columbia, today Zoey Chen will bring Taiwanese culture to RBHS. RBHS’ International Cultural Organization (ICO) will bring in a Taiwanese speaker after school today starting in room 230 then moving to the FACs lab. Chen, a psychology student at Mizzou, will lead the meeting as she speaks about Taiwanese culture while teaching attendees how to make Boba tea and the tiny tapioca balls that are signature to the drink.

So far, ICO has brought in speakers from Iraq and Australia. Junior Jocelyn Ash took the lead in the organization with the help of Kaleidoscope, which is part of the Mizzou Department of International Affairs.

“The process to find speakers was not as challenging as I expected,” Ash said. “I was able to get in touch with Dottie, one of the head leaders of Kaleidoscope. Her gracious heart has provided us with a majority of our speakers.”

Club sponsor Donna Hoffman said that the schedule of speakers ​is always evolving, but ICO will continue bringing in people and all are welcome.

“Our schedule of speakers is a work in progress, but we have an enthusiastic effort to continue to schedule guest speakers through a program with MU called Kaleidoscope,” Hoffman said. “I do know that on November 6th we plan to have a representative from Kenya speak to our group.”

The addition of boba-making is intended to get a wider audience to attend the meeting sophomore Hannah Cantin said. [Total_Soft_Poll id=”2″]

“It’s different than simply teaching about culture, but also allowing people to be immersed in an aspect of it that will make it more accessible and enjoyable to a larger group of people,” Cantin said. “Not everyone just likes to sit and learn about culture; some people have to participate in it to really appreciate it. Boba is pretty mainstream, even in western culture, so people will come to enjoy it, and maybe learn something about Taiwan along the way.”

Although past meetings followed a similar format, with a speaker discussing their culture and instructing on the cooking of a dish, Ash said this meeting would be slightly different because of Taiwan’s history and ongoing conflict with China, with some Taiwanese wanting to be recognized as a separate nation from China, but China seeing Taiwan as a breakaway province. 

“At [the meeting], we will be focusing more on how the separation of countries has allowed Taiwan to form their own national identity and culture,” Ash said. “Previous meetings focused more on the flaws that the country had implemented but never about how it led to the creation of a new country.”

Cantin is most excited for the opportunity to learn about how Chen viewed her culture and widen her world-view.

“I think cultural diversity and exchange is incredibly important, and I have always been fascinated about other cultures,” Cantin said. “I might just be a nerd that way, but in times such as the ones we live in now, with so much misunderstanding going around, I think events like these are important. Boba or otherwise, what I look forward to the most is the cultural education and exchange you can get firsthand from people who have come from other countries… Education is the first step to gaining understanding and acceptance, which is what ICO is all about.”

What culture would you most like to learn about? Let us know in the comments below!