Kent State students from around the world shared their cultures through presentations, performances and traditional foods at the annual International Homecoming Celebration Friday, Sept. 20.
An estimated one thousand international students, locals and alumni lined up outside the KSU Ballroom to attend the celebration. Artwork and customary clothing was displayed along walls and tables for guests to learn about and embrace different cultures.
The event gave international students the opportunity not only to show love for their countries, but to teach those who might subscribe to stereotypes regarding religion, politics or social issues.
Noor Agustina, a Kent State student from Indonesia working toward her Ph.D in curriculum and instruction, has worked a table at the International Homecoming Celebration for two years and uses the event to share knowledge about Indonesian people.
“Because our majority is Muslim, sometimes people think Muslim is a terrorist,” Agustina said. “I want to say we are not terrorists. We are friends. We are people. We are human.”
International student Christasel Akhigbe is a freshman from Nigeria studying economics and attending Kent State with her sister. Attending the event was her sister’s idea. Yet, Akhigbe noticed there was "so much I could show people.”
Nigeria has nearly 200 million in population and is known for their landmarks and wildlife.
“I want them to know we are developing. We have culture. We have different kinds of food. We have different kinds of music,” Akhigbe said. “We’re normal people too, but we have differences and differences don’t make us less advanced. We’re just different.”
Some nations tried to shake the negative perspective of their country while others tried to be taken a little more seriously.
International students, like Beatriz Mira a graduate student from Brazil, wanted to show that her country had more to offer than what meets the eye.
“Brazil is famous for its beaches and soccer and partying and beautiful women. It’s all there, but we are so much more,” Mira said. “We are a huge country. We have people from all over the world, so we are very rich culturally and we go way beyond the stereotypes people have for us.”
With 25 countries displayed and performances such as Bollywood dances, Kent State international students were able to showcase their culture. The Director of International Student Affairs, Eron Memaj, organized the event for its fifth year.
Each participant received a blank passport to fill with signatures from 15 of the 25 countries at the event. Once they finished, they received a free shirt and samples of traditional dishes from India, China, Nigeria, Oman and Brazil.
Some nations like Japan or South Korea would write students’ names in their passport to teach them how to write it in their language.
“International students represent diversity on this campus,” Memaj said. “You get to see the world and you can just do it right here at Kent State.”
While this event helped local students to branch out and think outside of the United States, it also helped new international students feel close to home again.
Paatyusha Ghanta, a graduate student in management studies from India, has spent two months in Kent and was “feeling nervous” about her transition.
“I’m seeing my own booth at the same time I get to experience new culture, so it’s kind of exciting,” Ghanta said.
Kiet Trinh, a freshman from Vietnam and has only lived here for one month and calls Kent State his “second home” already.
“I think its super meaningful, you know, because I just come here,” Trinh said. “I don’t know where people from my hometown are, but I can connect the dots and I can get in touch with a student in another country.”
Some Kent State faculty used this opportunity to teach their family instead of their students.
Yesim Kaptan is an assistant professor for the School of Communication from Turkey. She attended with her husband and daughter and wanted to show diversity to her family.
“For my daughter, I want her to see other cultures, you know, how people are so different but so similar at the same time,” Kaptan said. “I think if she is exposed to that at a younger age she will be more open minded and she would like to explore the world hopefully later in her life.”
Contact Sydney Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.