NAU’s International House (iHouse) invited students to an evening of gyoza cooking on Nov. 17 at the University’s International Pavilion. The iHouse is a residential community for international students and others interested in different cultures located in Campus Heights.

The event was hosted by iHouse Global Advisor Yui Yamada, who is an exchange student from Japan. 

Yamada explained that part of her role at NAU is to host these kinds of events for students regularly.

“I’m a global advisor for Campus Heights, and I have to do two events a month,” Yamada explained. “So I’ve done this dumpling event, and also a yakitori cooking party, which is another Japanese food. Everyone said that event was great, so I really wanted to do it again and thought dumplings would be even better because everyone can make their own.”

Students sat in groups at different tables, all of which were kitted out with a bowl full of gyoza filling, gyoza wraps and cups of water.

Each group was given a demonstration of how to assemble their gyoza, which involved placing a small amount of filling on the wrap, dipping their finger in the water and running it around the edge of the dough and folding it into the correct shape.

After they had been made, the dumplings were taken to the kitchen, where they were cooked in a pan with a small amount of water for around 10 minutes, until crispy.

Yamada had several other students helping her run the event, prepare and cook the food. Third-year student Destanee Delton was one of the students there to help.

“I helped Yui make things and prepare for the event,” Delton said. “So that involved cutting all the vegetables, mixing everything, test cooking [and] tasting the gyoza to see if it’s good.”

Delton explained the mixture which filled the gyoza was made up of pork meat, green onions, mushrooms, cabbage and various seasonings.

Although Yamada was the event coordinator, she explained that she does not usually take on leadership roles, so her job as global advisor was something that pushed her out of her comfort zone.

“I wouldn’t really say I’m much of a leader,” Yamada said. “I usually don’t take leadership in situations, but I’m really happy and I’m really enjoying it. I know that if I didn’t have this job I wouldn’t feel like this, because usually, I would hang out with just a few friends, but this is definitely a great way to socialize and meet new people.”

Many of the students participating in the event agreed these events are an excellent way to socialize with their peers. This was the case for German foreign exchange student Maria Ladehof, who lives at the iHouse.

“I think this is a great way to meet new people,” Ladehof said. “You’re seated at the table with people you don’t know, so you definitely get into conversation with different people, especially if you’re all making something together.”

This sentiment was also shared by Finnish exchange student Oliver Briny.

“I thought the event was really a lot of fun,” Briny said. “[It was] challenging, as well, but absolutely a great way to meet new people, especially international students.”

Briny added part of the reason for this was that the events are often hosted in the International Pavilion, which is located right by Campus Heights, so it is very easily accessible to international students living there.

As well as socializing and meeting new people, the event was also a way to introduce students to new global cultures that they may not have been familiar with before.

Delton, who is majoring in Japanese, explained these kinds of activities are a great way for people to immerse themselves into the culture.

“I’m a major in Japanese, so I was already really interested in the culture and knew a lot about it,” Delton said. “But I think these events are just really good for opening people up to new cultures because I think it’s one thing to see Japanese food, but making it and actually participating in it makes you learn about it more, and it’s also really fun, especially being able to eat it too!”

Briny was also already familiar with Japanese culture and was even speaking to Yamada and others in Japanese during the event.

“I’m very much into Japanese culture in general,” Briny said. “So when I saw my friend Yui post about this event on her Instagram I immediately thought, ‘I love Japanese food and culture, so let’s go!’”

Yamada, the event coordinator, explained the significance of gyoza in Japanese culture to those in attendance. 

“Usually we eat gyoza with family and friends,” Yamada said. “So we’ll go to someone’s house and cook and eat them together, so it’s kind of like a party thing that we do in Japan.”

As well as gyoza, there was also a selection of different teas available for participants to enjoy while they cooked. 

Because the event was organized by the iHouse, the majority of students in attendance were international exchange students from all over the world. As they sat and made dumplings, they shared their different experiences living in the United States, comparing how this differed from their home countries.

Yamada herself explained coming to NAU and assuming the role of global advisor was new to her.

“I applied for the role of global advisor before I came here,” Yamada said. “And I had no idea what NAU was going to be like, but I just knew I wanted to be a part of something fun, which it definitely has been!”

When talking about what other things she will be organizing as global advisor, Yamada said she will host an event at which international students can get rid of their unwanted items before they leave NAU.

“In December, because many of us are leaving Flagstaff, we’ll have a lot of things we don’t need anymore,” Yamada said. “So we’re going to do an item swapping event in the international pavilion where we can get rid of these kinds of items and give them to other people who might want them.”

Overall, the event was deemed a success by participants, just as Yamada said she had hoped. 

Ladehof said she hoped to use the skills she had learned and apply them in her own kitchen.

“I love gyoza, which is why I came tonight,” Ladehof said. “And knowing how to make it is nice and fun, so maybe I will try and do it myself at home.”

Although students ate their gyoza as they made them, by the end of the event, so many had been made that there were many leftovers for people to take home and enjoy.

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