Cultures meld together at International Festival

WCU fountain looked different yesterday.

A total of 48 tables and booths encircled the Central Plaza area, inviting huge crowd of WCU and local community members to learn about the different cultures and countries represented on the campus.

Western Carolina University held its 38th annual International Festival on Wednesday, March 29. The event started with the flag parade, a speech from the provost, and for the next few hours people enjoyed various performances organized by different programs.  You could smell and taste all sorts of food; drink traditional Arabic coffee or Japanese tea; or have a round of rock-and-roll dancing.

“We’re going to celebrate being a diverse campus,” concluded WCU Provost, Alison Morrison-Shetlar, as she opened the festival after the flag parade.

Students visit the International Friends table.
Photo by Calvin Inman.

One of the staple countries at the festival was Japan.

“The Japanese program has been participating in the event every single year since it was established in 2003,” informed Japanese Program Director, Yumiko Ono. She joined the program in 2010 and has been the coordinator for the Japanese Program Table since.

The Japanese Program this year had several activities. Three students from the program sang a compilation of anime songs in Japanese. They had a karate demonstration by another student and the visitors at the festival could try their hand at some Japanese calligraphy.

“I want my students to learn how they can contribute to our community utilizing what they have been studying in WCU Japanese program,” said Ono.

Students and faculty members from the program manned the festival booth. Information about courses, the Japanese minor, special studies in Japanese, and the exchange programs with Japanese universities were provided. Passerby could stop at the booth and ask any questions they may have about the program and what it has to offer.

Taketo Otani demonstrates how to write in Japanese calligraphy.
Photo by Calvin Inman.

Their special guest, Taketo Otani, gave a demonstration and lesson in Japanese calligraphy. Otani, who was born in raised in Tokyo, learned the art of calligraphy at a young age. Since retiring, he and his wife now live in Sylva, and he takes advantage of guest invitations such as this at other universities as well.

“The International Festival has been one of the greatest opportunities for the Japanese Program and students who are studying in the program. They will learn cultural diversity by participating in the event. More importantly, they represent themselves as change agents, who can make a bridge among visitors from inside and/or outside of WCU community and themselves,” said Ono.

“The Intensive English Program has taken part in the International Festival since 2010 when the IEP was established at WCU,” said the Intensive English Program Director, Jill Cargile. “Each year our students work with us to prepare. Many students from Saudi Arabia perform some of their traditional dances and enjoy inviting US students to join them and learn their dances.”

Intensive English Program table serving Arabic coffee and treats. Photo by Kayla Minion.

The IEP booth served those who stopped by their both with different drinks and foods from Saudi Arabia such as khawa (coffee), Arabic tea, and several “culinary delights.” In between the tasty distractions you could learn about the IEP program in general and their online non-degree teacher training GATE program. This second program is designed for U.S. students who want to teach English abroad but do not have training to do so.

“International Festival is a great place for the WCU, international and local communities to converge, share food and culture and get to know each other a little better,” said Cargile.

Other groups such as the International Program, International Friends, Study Abroad and a wide range of represented countries had tables of their own. At these tables, you could immerse yourself in each culture through the food and talking to people from these different countries and programs. With the huge turn out, there was no lack of conversation to go around.
See some more photos from the festival below. 

WCU International Festival 2017