Festival provides insight into cultures from around the world

The fountain on Western Carolina University’s Central Plaza was surrounded by booths and tents hosted by international students, study abroad returnees, campus departments and community organizations for WCU’s 38th annual International Festival on March 29.

As in previous years, “I-Fest” began with a parade of students, faculty and staff holding flags representing 28 countries. The flag parade originated at the Office of International Programs and Services and ended at the fountain. It was led by WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Brandon Schwab, who also gave the welcome to start the event.

Among the 35 booths in the fountain area were 14 “country booths” representing Aruba, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Wales and Yemen, said Kaitlin Ritchie, assistant director for international students and scholar services in the Office of International Programs and Services. Twenty-one booths were staffed by campus departments and community organizations including WCU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the Jackson County Library, Folkmoot, WCU’s International Studies Program and the International Friends Campus Ministry.

Participants enjoyed samples of international food and drink, and Aramark, WCU’s food service partner, provided samples of food representing Turkey, South Korea, Norway, Russia and Belize. “Many of the international students shared that they really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about their home country and share their culture and food,” Ritchie said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm and interest from the I-Fest participants to learn more about the many different cultures represented.”

Activities during the day included performances featuring Sri Lankan and northern India music by Channa De Silva, associate professor in WCU’s Department of Chemistry and Physics, and his daughter; ballroom dance; Chinese song and dance; students from WCU’s Japanese Program singing anime songs; and dancing by several international students from Saudi Arabia. Attendees also had a chance to take a salsa and merengue dance lesson and watch a karate demonstration.

Ritchie said the staff of International Programs and Services sends its thanks to all the students, faculty, staff and community members who hosted booths to help make the festival a success, as well as to the offices of Campus Activities and Campus Dining Services, the Facilities Management Department, Division of Student Affairs and Aramark.

Photos from the festival are viewable online.