Sounds and dances from around the world at WCU

The A.K. Hinds University Center at Western Carolina University was filled with an array of color as students from around the world waved their flags, displayed their culture and embraced the diversity that exists on this campus.

Marlene Vaughn, spent her time at the festival writing people's names in Japanese

Marlene Vaughn, spent her time at the festival writing people’s names in Japanese

The event which is organized by international students and the Office of International Programs and Services, kicked off with a procession of flags, a welcome and comments from WCU provost Alison Morrison- Shetlar.  After her talk the celebration continued.  Numerous booths were set up each with the theme of a specific country.  The booths had anything from food, to games, to arts and crafts.  At the center of the lawn was a designated dancing area where any person walking by could join in the dancing as music played on the loud speakers.

A Japanese feel could be experienced at a booth run by some members of the Japanese programs.  Marlene Vaughn, a transfer student at WCU majoring in Art and Japanese, with a minor in film studies, was in charge of writing students names out in Japanese.

“It is very exciting and energetic,” she shared.  “Our table has been very busy!”  Along with Japanese writing, their table was also giving away origami figures and answering questions about the program.

Another table that remained busy throughout the afternoon was the France booth.  There they were selling crepes with Nutella for $1, and they were such a hit that they were gone before the event even ended.   There was even a joking sign that said French kisses were being offered for $10, but according to Florian [Flo] Zunino, nobody took him up on the offer.  Flo is an international student from France along with Marie Chevallier, together they had a busy afternoon as they were the ones that ran the booth.

International students from France, Marie Chevallier and Florian Zunino

International students from France, Marie Chevallier and Florian Zunino

While they both thought that the turnout could have been better, they agreed that the overall festival went quite well.  Marie said that her favorite part was interacting with the people that stopped by their booth.

“We sold all of our crepes and we got to tell a lot of people about our country, so that was good,” she said.

Along with the activities that people could participate in, both WCU and International students wore garments that were typical of specific parts of the world.  Some even partook in the dances from around the world that were performed throughout the entire festival.  Miranda Welgos, a senior at WCU was one of the students that took advantage of the opportunity.

WCU Senior Miranda Welgos

WCU Senior Miranda Welgos

Miranda is a member of the Latino Appreciation Student Organization, otherwise known as LASO and she volunteered to dance “merengue” and “bachata” with other members from the organization.  She has had a lot of exposure to different cultures during her time at Western.  She is a double major in Spanish and business administration and has gotten many opportunities to travel.  She has been to Spain, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, and Peru.  She has also worked with the international students at WCU.  She enjoyed the event overall.

“I think the festival was great, even though the morning started out cloudy and looked like rain, we got lucky that there was tons of sunshine!”

Students walking by the designated dancing area were encouraged to jump in and students who knew the moves taught them the moves along the way.

Jorge Hernandez was someone that looked very excited to be at the International festival.  He encouraged people to go to the LASO booth and try their “horchata.”  Jorge is a freshman at WCU so this was his first time at the event.

“I really like the different events that each culture has that are unique to them,” he exclaimed.  “I love that everyone is getting into the event, it is definitely WCU’s diversity to it’s finest!”  As far as the dancing that was happening he said that he thought it was cool, and the music that people were dancing to was cool too, but when asked if he partook in the dancing he laughed, “personally I didn’t participate because I dance like I have two left feet, and I was too busy trying the food.”  Jorge said he definitely plans on going back in the coming years because he loves seeing everyone together like that.

Saleh Almuhamidh [Hoota] in traditional Saudi Arabian vestments.

Saleh Almuhamidh [Hoota] in traditional Saudi Arabian vestments.

An international student who both dressed and expressed his culture was Saleh Almuhamidh [Hoota].  This year’s festival was actually the third one that Hoota has gotten the opportunity to participate in.  He is from Saudi Arabia and he wore some traditional vestments known as a thobe and a ghutra.  The booth he had set up had a number of cultural items that he and fellow Saudi Arabian students shared facts about.  Hoota also partook in the dancing throughout the event.  He said that the event went pretty good, but as he compared it to the last festival, he said that “it was not as good as last year’s” but he has hopes that next year’s will be even more awesome.

“We will have more time to plan the one for next year and it will be great.”  As far as the International Festival goes, he shared with a smile that he is so happy that the school puts it on, and he loves participating in it.

All in all the International Festival provided a fun and diverse atmosphere for the Western Carolina University community.  Students were able to have a taste of the cultures that exist on this campus.  With around 200 international students and the representation of about 32 countries, exposure to different cultures becomes beneficial on a college campus, and there is no better way than with a festival!