With platefuls of colorful and aromatic cuisine, participants of the 2012 Festival of Nations at the University of South Dakota received a taste of the diversity in and around campus.
Held in the Muenster University Center Ballroom March 31, the International Students Club-sponsored event sold about 300 tickets and had over 20 countries represented, from Peru to Ethiopia to Taiwan.
As a native of Egypt, USD instructor and graduate student Musheera Anees said contributing everyday Egyptian dishes like falafel and fava beans to the festival allows others to reflect on the Egyptian culture.
“Food has a way of helping you stay connected to where you are from,” Anees said. “It is good to have this. Festival of Nations offers the experience to not only stay connected, but for people unfamiliar with other cultures to become connected, too.”
Ages ranged from toddlers waddling along in traditional garb to adults taking in the performances. Vermillion resident Laurie Brinkman said while the food from the African nations was her favorite, the representation from every country made the experience memorable.
“I came last year, and I just had to take my husband along this time,” said Brinkman, a USD alumnus. “The festival is one of the best events at USD. The food, the performances, it just keeps you entertained. I even got to catch up with past instructors, so it brings the community together.”
For second year graduate student Jana Jordan, the Festival of Nations was her first, and she said she was surprised by the large number of participants.
“To be honest, I am not surprised by the number of countries represented, but I didn’t think there would be quite so many people in the community who would come,” Jordan said. “This is a great event to have on campus, where students and the community can learn a culture outside of their own.”
Carrie Prentice, USD associate professor in communications studies, has been the adviser for the ISC for the past four years. Prentice said the event was more organized than years past due to the effort of the students in ISC who put the festival together.
“The Festival of Nations is important, because it isn’t just enough for people in the United States to just study people from other cultures without actually recognizing and embracing the differences,” Prentice said. “It is human for us to sit down and eat a meal together, and it is steps like this that can lead to peace in the world.”