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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


International students share cultures with festival on Mall

Janice Biancavilla
Janice Biancavilla/ Daily Wildcat Saudi Arabian students studying at the Center of English as a Second Language perform traditional dances during the International Festival on Thursday. The festival, coordinated by CESL represented and celebrated cultures of more than 30 countries.

Colorful flags, traditional dress, food and dance were just some of the cultural presentations offered at the Center for English as a Second Language’s International Festival on Thursday.

Flags representing different countries hung in a tent on the UA Mall. Students from the center stood by their countries’ sections, providing information about their culture and customs.

The event, which began at 10 a.m., provided attendees with the opportunity to speak with students from the center and learn about their hometown experiences. Some visitors had their names written in different languages, while others enjoyed Arabic tea or packaged snacks from different countries.

“The best thing is that we can show our culture to people that don’t know about Mexico and hope they like Mexico,” said Odaliz Solis, who has been studying at the center for nine months and helped represent the Mexican cultural group.

At each table, students answered questions about their country and explained some of their stories. Visitors were free to try the food from different countries and enjoy a blend of music from different cultures playing on the stage.

Crowds gathered throughout the day to watch some of the cultural groups perform traditional dances, as well as to hear performers sing in their native tongues. Each performance received a round of applause from the crowd.

Despite the heat, some of the center’s teachers and lecturers noted the benefits of hosting the event outside. This is the first year the event was not housed in the Center for English as a Second Language.

“There’s a lot more traffic coming through and a lot more people asking questions,” said Kate Van Roekel, an adjunct lecturer in CESL who helped the Middle East cultural group organize its presentations. “It actually feels like a festival.”

UA students and local elementary students alike attended the festival.

“I think this is great for the young age group to see and meet people from other countries,” said Rosalie Perales, a teacher of first- and second-graders at Miles Exploratory Learning Center. “I really think it’s good to just know the world.”

Perales’ elementary school class walked around with maps and marked down the countries they were “visiting.” The students were asked to try a food, have their name written in a different language and learn more about each country.

Some UA students were also visiting the festival for a class assignment and walked around to each table while taking notes.

“I have learned a lot about cultures, some I haven’t even heard of,” said Austyn Johnston, a marketing junior who visited the festival for her global communications class. “I think Americans are kind of censored about other cultures and we need to open up our minds a little bit more.”

Other students participating in the festival commented on the increased visibility by hosting the event on the Mall, as well as the pride they felt through teaching others about their culture.

“I think this is better than last year, because this is on the Mall and anyone on campus can see this,” said Meshael Al Ahmadi, who has studied at CESL since 2010. “The best thing is that people can know about my culture and my traditions and ask me about anything.”

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