2023 Global Spartan Photo Contest Winners

Each spring, International Student & Scholar Services hosts the annual Global Spartan Photo Contest. Our goal is to share a variety of cultural perspectives through photography and short narratives. As such, each photo submission is accompanied by a short narrative that explains the cultural significance of the photo from the photographer’s perspective. Narratives answer the questions: What aspect of culture does this photo represent? and Why is this photograph important to me?

The Most Impactful Narrative and Top 10 Photos are selected by the Global Spartan Month Planning Committee. In-person voting is open to the general public at our annual Global Spartan Month Fair in March, followed by online voting via social media.  Once the voting period is over, the in-person and online votes are tallied to determine the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Fan Favorites.

Congratulations to this year’s winner and all of our Top 10 finalists! Thank you for submitting such outstanding photos and sharing your unique cultural perspectives with us! Continue Reading…

How to make hand rolled veggie sushi

Hand Rolled Veggie Sushi

Recipe by Jamie Kubota, MS, RD – Chef Instructor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science & Packaging

Fun to make once you get the hang of it – and so much cheaper than buying sushi out… You can always add in cooked shrimp, crab or egg if you like.  If you want to splurge and include raw fish, you’ll need to find sushi-grade fish – but that can be a fun trip to the Japanese market…

Notes:  Sushi seasoning can be bought pre-made – it comes in a bottle in the vinegar section at the Asian or Japanese markets – and even some American supermarkets carry it.  But you can easily make sushi seasoning as well – simply combine until dissolved 5 parts unseasoned rice vinegar, 3 parts sugar, and 1 part salt (for example, 5 tbsp rice vinegar, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp salt).  Store any extra seasoning in a jar in your spice cabinet. 

You can also make the rice on the stove or in the microwave if you don’t have a rice cooker.  The most important thing is the type of rice you use – look for sushi rice – or Calrose rice which is a rice with similar slightly sticky texture perfect for sushi. Regular long-grain rice isn’t the right texture and won’t stick together well for sushi rolling.

Continue Reading…

Peace Corps Experience

When I was in high school, I had to do a report for my English class on an organization, so I wrote mine on the Peace Corps. After graduating from college and working for a few years, I had the desire to travel more and learn another language. After researching short-term language programs, I realized that my best option to learn another language was to immerse myself in another culture, rather than a 3 week course. Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer would allow me the opportunity to get work experience, learn another language and immerse myself in another culture for a period of 27 months. 

In 2019, I went through the interview and application process to become a Peace Corps Volunteer and in December 2019 I received my invitation to serve as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in Bulgaria. I accepted the invitation and in June 2000, I flew to Chicago, Illinois for my in-country service training, where I met 70 other Americans who would be in my training group. After spending a few days in Chicago, we all flew to Bulgaria. Our training period of 3 months was spent in the town of Dupnitsa, where I lived with a Bulgarian family who didn’t speak any English. Since I did not know any Bulgarian our initial conversations involved charades. My training was immersive, Monday – Friday 8am-5pm where I attended ‘classes’ which consisted of Bulgarian language learning; Bulgarian culture, history and sector (Community Economic Development) training, as well as medical information, and site visits. At the end of my training period, I was officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and found that I would be placed to work in the town of Razlog, population 13,000, for the next 2 years. 

In September 2000, I moved to Razlog to work with the municipal government. I worked for the Mayor of Razlog and my counterpart was the Senior Expert of Culture and Public Relations. Throughout my 2 year term: I provided support to the Municipal Government, Business Center and Local Economic Development Agency in project planning, grant writing, project implementation, and management; Designed and implemented individual community projects and grants that supported local governance, minority, civil society, and youth initiatives; Supported the objects and aims of various international aid agencies (PHARE, UNDP, USAID, Council of Europe, and the European Union) through the implementation of strategic development plans.; Project implementation, management, and evaluation of a $5,000 USAID grant.; Grant research, development writing, and management on multiple projects.

I worked four days a week, so I had the flexibility to travel around Bulgaria on the weekends. If I didn’t stay in my town, then I was traveling to see other volunteers. Since we were not allowed to drive, I traveled mostly via bus and sometimes by train. I was able to see the landscape of the country and enjoy the different food. Some of my favorites were shopska salata and moussaka.  I also had the opportunity to travel outside of Bulgaria while living there and went to on trips to Greece, Austria, France, Belgium, Germany, and Turkey, 

In March 2002, I received a call from my Peace Corps Program Manager sharing with me an opportunity to go to East Timor. They were looking to have volunteers who are in their 2nd year of service, extend for a third year to start the Peace Corps in East Timor. They were recruiting 2nd year Community Economic Development  and Health Volunteers. I was nominated by my Country Director and Program Manager, since I had been serving in a small community. I applied and was accepted into the program.

In June 2022, I left my community of Razlog and Bulgaria, for a quick trip home to California before traveling to Washington, DC for my in-country service training. My training group was 18 other Americans who had recently served elsewhere with the Peace Corps; three of us in Bulgaria. We had a shortened training period in the capital of Dili and throughout this time I lived with a family. Training consisted of Tetun-Dili language learning, East Timor culture, history and sector (Local Governance Promotion) training, as well as medical information, and site visits. At the end of my training period I was placed in Aileu to work for the District Administration. Throughout my 6 months at site, I was a able to: Provide support to the District Administration, United Nations Portuguese Peace Keeping Forces, United Nations Military Observers, United Nations Police Forces, and the community in establishing a local governance framework.; Supported the objects and aims of Peace Corps in a new nation through the development of project plans.; Experience in economic development, strategic planning and program development—focusing on local governance and grass-roots development.; Community development experience, working with a variety of actors within the development world—including local schools, non-governmental organizations, the media, and local businesses as well as international aid organizations such as the United Nations.

My experience living abroad was a good experience. I definitely had my ups and downs throughout my 2 ½ years abroad. I am grateful for the time that I was able to spend in 2 countries for a longer period of time, which allowed me to accomplish my initial goal of learning another language, getting work experience, meeting new people, and learning about a new culture. I believe that my time abroad gave me an understanding of the challenges and joys that the international students that I work with are experiencing, while studying here in the U.S. I encourage you to learn more about the Peace Corps, as well as continue to gain new experiences by traveling. 

Suzanne Pendergrass

Assistant Director, International Student and Scholar Services

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer: Alieu, EAST TIMOR June 2002 – November 2002; Razlog Bulgaria June 2000-June 2002

Learn more about Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a U.S. holiday, dedicated to giving thanks for the things we have, and celebrating the fall harvest. It typically falls on the fourth Thursday of every November. Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by president Abraham Lincoln in the year 1863. 

Many Americans generally believe that Thanksgiving is modeled after a 1621 harvest feast shared with the Pilgrims who lived and settled at Plymouth Rock, and the Native American Wampanoag tribe. This is why you see many Thanksgiving decorations with Pilgrim and Native American motifs.

The Thanksgiving holidays are the busiest travel days in the U.S annually, as people travel home to celebrate. It is a time to come together with family and friends, and to feast on a traditional Thanksgiving meal. It is most common to eat stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, collard greens, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, and of course TURKEY! 

Caption: A traditional Thanksgiving meal at home.

There are also many regional variations in side dishes, such as mac and cheese, oyster stuffing, and you may find fried turkey in Texas. Many multicultural dishes are also making their way into Thanksgiving dinner, such as tamales, manicotti, and empanadas. Many families will also have their own personal transitional dishes and sides. 

Aside from eating so much food, other traditional Thanksgiving activities include watching football games, and the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which is held in New York city. The first parade was held in 1924, and was first televised in 1953. This parade features floats, giant balloons of popular characters in pop culture, performances by high school marching bands, local Broadway shows, and Santa Claus is usually seen at the end of the parade to mark the beginning of the holiday season in the U.S. 

Caption: A giant turkey float, and cartoon dog balloon going down a street in NYC for the Thanksgiving parade.

We hope you enjoy Thanksgiving this year with good food and friendship!


Written by: Victoria Hudak, International Student Advisor

2022 SJSU Homecoming Explained

The Cambridge Dictionary defines homecoming as “a celebration at school or college, usually including a dance and a football game, when people who were students there at an earlier time can return to visit” (dictionary.cambridge.org). This is particularly true of American high school and university culture. Homecoming events at American universities are centered around a special football game that has been designated as the “homecoming game.” It’s a time when many alumni return to campus to watch the game and to join current students in showing their school pride.  Curious about American homecoming traditions? View our previous blog to learn more!

SJSU traditions explained

SJSU follows many American homecoming traditions, but there are certain traditions unique to our campus. We encourage you to get into the Spartan Spirit and participate in the many fun homecoming events. You can view the full list of Homecoming events here.

Block Party

Generally speaking, a Block Party is a social gathering for people who live on a certain block or neighborhood. Oftentimes, streets are closed off so that people can walk freely and socialize with their neighbors. The term now loosely refers to a large social gathering to build a sense of community. During homecoming, SJSU hosts a Block Party on 7th St. Plaza with free food, giveaways, music, and fun activities.

2021 Block Party

Golf Cart Parade & Pep Rally

One unique feature of homecoming at SJSU is the Golf Cart Parade. SJSU departments and student organizations decorate golf carts in Spartan blue and gold, and then parade around campus to get everyone excited about homecoming. Typically, the parade ends near 7th Street Plaza in a Pep Rally to cheer on our Spartan athletes.

2021 Golf Cart Parade

Fire on the Fountain

Another unique event to SJSU homecoming week is Fire on the Fountain on Tower Lawn. Traditionally, this event takes place on Thursday evening of homecoming week, and is also the same night the SJSU Alumni Association hosts their Alumni reception. This event features food, games and activities, and a show! A stage is set up near the fountain on Tower Lawn, and many student groups perform. True to its name, the show ends with an exciting fire dance–something that you don’t want to miss!

Game Day Tailgate Party & Spartan Squad Charge

See our blog post to learn more about what tailgating means.

At SJSU, there is a designated tailgate area, near the corner of Humboldt Street and 9th Street (see map below). Tailgating happens immediately before each home football game, but the homecoming tailgate party is always extra big with a DJ, Spartan swag, games, and sometimes free food. Fans are allowed to bring in their own food and beverages, so long as they follow the tailgating rules.

Right before the game, students from the tailgate party participate in the Spartan Squad Charge, a newer SJSU tradition that happens at every home football game. Around 30-minutes before kick off, students “charge the field” from the north gate, run down the ramp and across the field before heading to the Spartan Squad Student Section on the south end of the stadium.

2021 Spartan Squad Charge

So you want to go to the homecoming football game?

Here are things you should know…

  • Students get in FREE with your Tower ID (don’t forget to bring it!)
  • There’s usually a giveaway item at each home football game (limited supplies, so go early if you want to get one)
  • Free Shuttle Service is available to and from the stadium on game days, starting 3 hours before kick off. Shuttle pick up is at San Salvador and 9th Street.
  • Clear bag policy: Backpacks and purses are NOT allowed. We encourage you to carry with you only what you need. A clear bag policy is a typical requirement at American sporting events; be sure to review what you can and cannot take with you.

Don’t know anything about American Football?

That’s okay! Not all Americans do either! The important thing is to experience the excitement and energy of being at CEFCU stadium cheering on our football team alongside fellow SJSU students and fans. If you get bored, you can always leave the game early and catch the shuttle back to campus, but this is a great opportunity to experience a piece of American culture.

Want to learn more about the sport? Here are some resources: