As part of Global Engagement Week, which celebrates cultural awareness and diversity, the International Festival’s theme this year was “Ancient Egypt.” Nearly 700 international students are members of the student body at UVU.
“We just want to bring part of the world here on campus, so people can see that we’re not just [international] students,” said Claudine Kuradusenge, a senior from Rwanda and manager of Global Engagement Week. “We have so much heritage and culture behind us. We want to share it with people.”
Four members of the “Voice of Africa” began the night with an African drum presentation. Multiple organizations assisted in the planning, organization and volunteering for the International Festival.
“We have International Student Council, the Japan Club, UVUSA and the Multicultural Center,” Kuradusenge said. ”We have a lot of volunteers. There are 14 booths, so about 50 volunteers.”
Each of the booths promoted the cultures of Bolivia, France, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, Polynesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Ukraine, among others.
Julia Yevdokimova, a student volunteer with ISC, displayed traditional matroshka dolls made out of wood at the Ukraine booth. Yevdokimova is Ukranian and came to UVU three years ago.
“Here, you have a chance to present yourself,” Yevdokimova said of the festival. “Nobody will tell you ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘You can’t do that.’ You can present your culture and be yourself and everybody will support you. I think that’s amazing.”
Two volunteers greeted guests at the Venezuela booth, including Cesar Ramirez, a computer science student. After moving from Venezuela to Utah one year ago, he completed his ESL classes in order to pursue his bachelor’s degree.
“In other countries, America is seen as an international country. So we want other people to know our culture as they want us to know their culture. There’s people from everywhere,” Ramirez said.
Music played throughout the night and dance performances were scheduled one after the other. Students performed Samba, Polynesian and traditional Native American dances, including a hoop dance by the Native Sun Club.
“I love the dances,” said Aric Bodily, a junior in accounting. “How they move their hips is beyond me. Just seeing the different cultures and what they have, the different stuff they make, I just like it.”
Kyle Reyes, assistant to the President, was the night’s emcee. Reyes’ background ranges from Hawaiian, Japanese, Spanish and Filipino heritage.
“It gives an international students a chance and a venue to showcase their cultures in a way that is very open and highly collaborative,” Reyes said of Global Engagement Week. “Our campus needs more of these types of intercultural things, because our graduates need to know that they are going to step into an ever more globally-engaged world and they need to be more competent as they do that.”
“We just try to bring them closer to home, to feel less homesick, because they can share their culture,” Kuradusenge said. “And for Americans, we’re just trying to open their eyes to other parts of the world and show how beautiful the world is.”
The day after the International Festival, a Japan Game Night was held Tuesday, Nov. 13, where students and their families were invited to play traditional Japanese and American games set up at Centre Stage.
About 150 people came to the event that featured a fishing game called Kingyo Sukui, pinball and a bingo game set up on the stage. Calligraphy was also set up at a table in a corner of the room. Tickets to play games were 25 cents each.
Paola Rondon, a hospitality management major and member of ISC, volunteered to take photos of students in Japanese kimonos and masks.
“Most of the students own the outfits, they just brought it and let people use it,” Rondon said. “I know one them is $30,000, they are really expensive because they are handmade. They actually wear these types of kimonos for weddings or special events.”
Other events that made up Global Engagement Week were a Zumba Dance fundraiser for UNICEF on Wednesday and the International Food Extravaganza on Thursday.
The week-long celebration is hosted annually by International Student Services and the International Student Council.