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International Education Week kicked off on Monday with a world culture festival held in the second floor lobby of the Students’ Union. Attendees got a glimpse of traditional clothing, tasted local treats, and learned about the countries international students at the University of Northern Kentucky call home.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., 15 flag-draped tables lined the lobby in front of the student union food court, some with educational displays or ornate decorations, all with a variety of snacks and treats. A coffee machine on the Guatemalan table being diligently brewed. Two Ethiopian students spun bracelets from green, yellow and red threads: the colors of their national flag. At the South Korean table, the students played traditional games.

“It is a very good opportunity for cultural exchange,” said Luis Henckell-Rosas, German economics and exchange student. He attended the event to show others a glimpse of his culture.

An exhibition on the Ethiopian table at the World Culture Fest. (Mildred Nguyen)

Likewise, media computer science major Tingwen Wang, who prepared an assortment of goodies and a PowerPoint presentation for the Chinese table, thought it was cool to show other people your culture. She hoped the attendees would have fun at the event.

Toni Schneller, international programs coordinator for the NKU Center for Global Engagement & International Affairs and one of the organizers, said the response from students and visitors has been tremendous.

“We are truly grateful to all of the students who have dedicated their time to creating exhibitions and talking about their countries,” said Schneller. “Everyone benefits from learning from different countries. This is how we create a common understanding.

An annual occasion, International Education Week took place entirely virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, while many events are online, a number can take place in person including World Culture Fest.

The World Culture Fest has been held in the summer of previous years according to Schneller, but recently it was switched to spring and eventually fall. Organizers are awaiting similar events, like the International Dinner and Talent Show, which will take place in the fall to make sure everything runs smoothly, Schneller said.

Honduran and Indian tables at the World Culture Fest. (Mildred Nguyen)

From collecting student-sent videos to enlisting guest speakers, organizing International Education Week took a few months, according to Schneller. Each day of the week is dedicated to a region of the world: Monday in Latin America, Tuesday in East Asia, Wednesday in Europe and Africa, Thursday in Asia from South and Middle East, Fridays to South East Asia. Activities include live workshops, keynote speakers, regional live broadcasts and cooking demonstrations on social media.

On the first day, the biggest challenge for Schneller was not having student representatives from all countries at the World Culture Fest.

“Just students [are] very busy with their class schedules, ”said Schneller. “We would like to have more student representatives from all other countries [that NKU international students come from]. This is our greatest regret.

Still, being able to see the cultural exhibits and taste all the different foods was a highlight, Schneller added.

For more information, visit the International Education Week page on Canvas: https://nku.instructure.com/courses/40201.

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