Cosmopolitan Club Postcards

The Cosmopolitan Club was founded in 1907, making it the oldest international student organization on the University of Illinois campus. The purpose of the club was to cultivate social and img012intellectual relationships between persons of different nationalities though a variety of activities and services. These activities included ethnic dinners, international coffee hours, parties, and various outings to cultural and social events and local attractions. The Cosmopolitan Club, or “Cosmo” Club for short, wished to offer opportunities for Americans and those from other countries to share experiences and exchange ideas. In addition to the programs, the Cosmo Club house on John Street served as a “home away from home” for several members and as a meeting place close to campus.

Recently, the Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives acquired more materials related to the Cosmopolitan Club. These items included brochures, international dinner menus, club calendars, newsletters, and various items related to social activities and administrative proceedings of the club. All of the newest material was donated by Susan Taylor, faculty advisor of the Cosmopolitan Club and Assistant Professor of English as an International Language from 1964 to 1999.

Postcard from Italy.

Postcard from Italy.

Among her various club materials, Ms. Taylor donated a box full of postcards that she received from her students and members of the Cosmo Club. The postcards date from 1978 to 1995 and come from all over the world. Most of the postcards are from international destinations, but there are several from various locations in the United States as well.

Postcard from Japan, dated 1993.

Postcard from Japan, dated 1993.

In them, students and club members express how much they enjoy attending the University of Illinois and how homesick they are for the campus. They frequently express how much the Cosmopolitan Club meant to them and that they enjoyed their experiences at UIUC. Many of the postcards include details about what the student did while traveling, at home, or what the scenery is like where they are.

Postcard from Malaysia, dated 1993.

Postcard from Malaysia, dated 1993.

It is evident how much Ms. Taylor’s students cared for her as well. The postcards almost always start off inquiring about her health or her plans, and reference events in her life.

The postcards document student life and culture at the University of Illinois from a unique perspective. They tell student stories written by students in their own words. It is valuable to learn what international students think about their campus experiences and how they feel about their “home away from home”. From these postcards, it is easy to see that the Cosmopolitan Club accomplished their goal of making international students feel welcome on and incorporated on campus. The postcards also serve as a documentation of the student-teacher relationship that Susan Taylor had with her international students and fellow Cosmo Club members.

Postcard from France, dated 1978.

Postcard from France, dated 1978.

There are about 250 postcards included in Ms. Taylor’s collection.

The postcards are a part of the record series 41/64/8, Association of Cosmopolitan Clubs Records. The records of the Cosmopolitan Club or the postcards themselves can be viewed at the Archives Research Center.

 

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