Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cultural Diversity for the Campus Community: International Festival (I-Fest) Hosted at Bracken Library

Bracken Library hosted a glimpse of cultures from around the world on Friday, November 13, 2009. Booths spread across Bracken’s first floor, designed by Ball State’s international student population, represented about twenty countries in the annual International Festival (I-Fest), sponsored by the Rinker Center for International Programs.

Individuals wandering through the festival had the opportunity to learn about jewelry from Pakistan, scrolls from China, reggae and calypso music from the Caribbean, architecture in Russia, bracelets and women’s clothing from Kenya, calligraphy from South Korea, various forms of art and art techniques from Sri Lanka, architecture and terrain in Yemen, and so much more.

Food sampling included brie from France, a pastry called kush tili from Uzbekistan, shrimp chips from Vietnam, a whole buffet from Saudi Arabia, and onion glaze from India, as well as other delicious fare.

Just as important as the tables were the interactions between the students. Bracken was buzzing with activity throughout the event, which lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., as students staffed their booths, visited others, took group photos, introduced themselves to American students and faculty, and explained their cultures and perspectives.

Jovid Kamolov (Tajikistan) and Farana Abdullayeva (Azerbaijan) were seated near each other. “I have enjoyed meeting a lot of new people,” Jovid said. Farana added, “I am looking forward to the next one,” and she already had ideas for improving her booth and presentation. Jovid made an observation that it was helpful to draw a map of the world for curious visitors to his booth “since Tajikistan is so small.” Both students were delighted to comment that their visitors were “extremely interested to learn more” about their countries and cultures.

Jonathan Pierrel (France) is an instructor in the English Department. He said, “I have enjoyed talking to many people.” For example, he had discussed “the Russian influence on certain parts of Turkey [with a student from Turkey] and the educational system in Kenya [at the Kenya table].”

Anca Topliceanu (Romania) was at her table for the entire event. Did she enjoy the I-Fest? “It has been very long, but very fun. I have talked with people the whole time and feel that I did not talk about the same thing more than once in six hours. Many people’s questions have helped me learn more about my own country. Their perceptions are different than mine. I have learned about what people find interesting about Romania, and we have talked about theater, music, sports, religion, not just political things. Romania is a very cultural country, and I am happy to talk about its culture.”

Dr. Arthur W. Hafner, Dean of University Libraries, said that the University Libraries were happy to host this event for the third consecutive year to promote international awareness and to help campus community members learn about the customs and traditions of Ball State’s international students.

I-Fest was organized this year by Trevor J. Foley, Events Coordinator at the Rinker Center for International Programs. His goal for the day was “to build awareness of the international community and opportunities that exist at Ball State and in the Muncie community.” He explained that the Rinker Center is looking to create connections between international students and domestic students as well as greater collaboration between programs and groups that already exist at our university.

Over 575 international students from 86 countries currently take classes at Ball State. To mobilize so many across campus, the Rinker Center contacted organized student groups, sent out emails, and shared the information through word of mouth about the opportunity to creatively design a presentation at the festival, making use of displays, food, clothing, maps, music, slideshows, cultural objects, or anything else the students could imagine.

I-Fest was part of Ball State’s Culture Week, November 9-14, designed by Ball State’s Multicultural Center to broaden the cultural horizons of Ball State’s students, faculty, and staff. The exciting day at Bracken Library was free and open to the public.

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