The University of Maine Office of International Programs and the International Student Association celebrated the 28th annual Culturefest at the New Balance Student Recreation Center last Saturday, Nov. 7.
Around 35 exhibits featured student groups like the German Club, The Muslim Student Association and the African Student Association, as well as student representatives from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Russia. Representatives of the United States even had their own table.
“Culturefest is our biggest event of the year,” Sayoko Mori, coordinator of International Programming and Outreach, said.
Many of the exhibitions promoted student language literacy, study abroad options and cultural heritage for the many countries that were represented. International volunteers wore clothing from their country of origin and allowed visitors to try some on. Many had examples of famous artifacts, other items or people related to their culture and maps of their country.
“We have a lot of international and domestic students volunteering,” Orlina Boteva, the director of International Programs, said.
The Office of International Programs works to promote international studies at the University of Maine for those who live abroad, but also works with current students pursuing study abroad opportunities. According to their website, students can choose from more than 700 study abroad programs and can apply for scholarships.
“[Culturefest] promotes the diversity of campus and provides the community with a chance to see the different cultures,” Mireille Le Gal, an international student advisor, said.
“The most interesting things about Australia are our animals and our landscape,” Kristy Stocks, a native Australian and a third-year elementary education student, said.
Other than the exhibition area, participants were able to view dances, demonstrations and musical performances from native cultures and eat foods from around the world. Some student representatives even had dishes to try at their booths.
Jamaican, Japanese and South Korean cuisine were popular among many of the participants.
The performance stage featured 12 presenters and performers. The performances included a Japanese traditional dance, a hip-hop dance and an opera display.
According to the International Programs office, there are 555 international students attending UMaine this year, representing 70 different countries. Countries with large student populations at UMaine include Canada, China, Russia, Brazil and the United Kingdom. Nearly 100 countries’ flags were displayed around the festival area, according to the Office of International Programs.
“That warm feeling of people being friendly is the best thing about the country,” Dorina Grezda, a resource economics and policy graduate student, said. She is from Kosovo, a partially recognized state in southeastern Europe that declared its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008.
“We also have the youngest population in the Balkan region,” Grezda said. “Most people are under the age of 35.”
“We like to have people visit us,” Faisal Alturki, a Saudi Arabian native who has been learning English in the United States for the last 10 months, said. He is looking to study mechanical engineering.
“Nepal is very different in terms of climate,” Nipun Vaidya, a native Nepalese and fourth-year accounting and finance student who lives near the capital city of Kathmandu, said. He said that some other aspects of Nepal that makes it interesting to others is its castes. He is part of the Newar people who originally settled in the Kathmandu Valley and speak a separate language known as Newari.
“We are so diverse for such a small country,” Sujita Pandey, another fourth-year Nepalese student who is studying economics, said.
The International Student Association is an organized group of students who stress the need to bring international students together. They do this by taking part in Culturefest and also holding a weekly Coffee Hour Fridays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the North Pod of the Memorial Union. According to their website, some of the special events that are held during these times include country and culture presentations, food tastings and competitions.
“I think this is a really great way for students to see what other cultures make up the university,” Brendan Smith, a third-year nutrition student, said. “Even though it’s a part of what I study, I especially liked to try all of the different variety of foods here.”
People who are interested can also check out the International Dance Festival that will be held on Feb. 20, 2016 at the Collins Center for the Arts. Any more information about international programs can be found on the University of Maine Office of International Programs website.