The University of Connecticut is sometimes described as a small city, and like most cities, UConn is full of diverse cultures and people. Those cultures were on display at Worldfest 2016, sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services, which saw over a dozen groups gather to discuss their traditions and celebrate with music and dance.
Opportunities to talk with people about the culture of far off places like Hong Kong, Ireland and Nepal can be few and far between, but Worldfest allowed people to talk with representatives of dozens of cultural organizations on campus.
“We’re just running our table to help spread the culture of Hong Kong. People come over, ask questions and stuff like that and it’s really great,” Lincoln Lau, a sixth semester consumer behavior major and member of the Hong Kong Student Association said.
For others, Worldfest represented an opportunity to explore the history of places like Nepal, a landlocked country in South Asia.
“We have a lot of different things that people don’t know about Nepal. Nepal is filled with many different ethnic groups…I also incorporated the food, which is a big part of Nepali culture”, Mamta Bahndari, the president of the Nepali Student Association said. “We’re promoting Nepal culture, because not too many people know too much about Nepal’s culture.”
Other organizers and representatives at the event spoke about what their group meant to them, calling their fellow group members ‘family.’
“We are a cultural group, but in my opinion we’re more than that,” Mimi Mather, an eighth semester physiology and neurobiology major and representative of the Cambodian Student Association said. “I consider us to be a family, because we’re one of the smaller groups on campus, so family is very important to us and we’re a very close-knit group. It’s a really big part of our events and what our club does…It’s a celebration of Cambodian culture, as well as raising awareness and making people more familiar with Cambodian culture, and the people and the culture in general.”
Worldfest also featured a variety of performances from various organizations on campus, including the playing of traditional Japanese drums by UConn Taiko and a fashion show, where participants showed off traditional clothing from a host of countries, including Colombia, India and Albania.
Many of the booths incorporated representatives’ personal experiences abroad, including photographs and mementos that they kept from their trips abroad.
“I use a number of the things that are from countries that my friends are from and used them in the poster. We have teas from four different countries, memorabilia from Switzerland, a picture of my daughter and I riding an elephant in Sri Lanka,” Ruth Hartunian-Elumeaugh, a volunteer for the International Christian Fellowship, said. “We’re here to serve and be a blessing to our international friends…The goal is to let people know that we’re a resource for you if you’re an international student, and the other goal, hopefully, is to show that we really are a global organization.”
Still others used the opportunity to showcase upcoming events at UConn, such as the celebration of the Persian New Year.
“We think that it’s good to bring attention to our culture and our celebrations, such as how we’re preparing for the New Year in the spring, the Persian New Year,” Fatemeh Khatami, a fourth year PhD student in biomedical engineering and a member of the Iranian Cultural Organization at UConn said.
Khatami also referenced current events and the relationship between Iran and the United States. She said she hopes that this event helps visitors understand that most Iranians want a peaceful, friendly relationship with the United States.
“We want to teach others about Iran and Persian culture, because the people want to be happy and be friends with other nations. This is our home, and sometimes things are complicated, but I think that’s the reason that we’re here, to show our culture and show that, like you, we want to be friends,” Khatami said.
Edward Pankowski is the life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.