The MUC Ballroom was filled with food, dancing, singing and laughter on Sunday night. The International Club hosted their annual Festival of Nations event that brought students, faculty and community members together with the purpose of celebrating culture from all over the world.
In years past, the event has had an average turnout of 200 participants. This year, Brandi German, International Club president, said she had a personal goal to make the event larger than in years past, and she accomplished her goal with around 350 guests in attendance enjoying the various food and culture.
“I just want for myself to make it bigger and better than it was last year,” she said. “We have put a lot of hard work into it, so we want everyone to enjoy it and learn something. I am so happy to see all the people here tonight.”
German said the event is “basically a really big buffet,” and featured dishes from over 30 countries this year.
“We ask students to cook dishes from their countries, or if they are domestic students they can cook something from their home or another country if they want,” she said.
Besides the food, guests were also able to watch traditional dance, listen to traditional songs and poetry readings.
Zoufishan Ahmer, a junior marketing major and Pakistani international student, performed three traditional Pakistani songs. Ahmer said she hoped audience members were able to understand her songs even with the language barrier.
“I am basically singing my cultural songs and I hope people understand that,” she said. “Maybe not the words, but the flow because music has no language.”
Ahmer is attending USD on a student exchange program, and she’s the cultural ambassador for her home country of Pakistan. She said she chose to perform at the Festival of Nations event this year because she wanted to use her talent to represent her country.
“This is the first time I have ever attended such an event like this where I can see so many different countries, and it is a big thing for me,” Ahmer said. “I wanted to represent my culture in any way so I thought (singing) would be the best because it is my strength.”
Rabab Alkhalas, a sophomore psychology major, volunteered to help decorate for the Festival of Nations event. The ballroom was lined with flags of the countries that were recognized at the event. Alkhalas said she thinks it’s important for non-international students to attend events like the Festival of Nations.
“To get to know other cultures and understand especially here in America where you see people from all over the world,” she said. “I think you must at least know some of the cultures so you don’t misunderstand and to learn new things.”
German said normally international students help put on the event because there’s a larger number of international students in the International Club.
Students do not need to be an international student to become a member of the International Club or attend events put on by the group.
“I am not an international student, I am from South Dakota as well,” German said. “I think it is pretty important that (international students) get their time. As the University of South Dakota we get a lot of representation already, we have a large student population of students that are from here. These are students that don’t have anyone from home and move here not knowing anyone so it is a really big adjustment. This is a good opportunity to have a little bit of home here.”
Alkhalas said the Festival of Nations is a great opportunity for non-international students and international students alike to learn about different world cultures, something she thinks is greatly important.
“I think it is one of the best events where you can see people from all over the world, taste dishes from all over the world and get to meet people,” Alkhalas said. “It is all about meeting new people and seeing a new culture and get involved.”
Video by Kassidie Cornell for Coyote News.