International Festival Brings Cultures and Communities Together

For one day each year, IUPUI’s Office of International Affairs goes all out to celebrate what it does each day. Thursday marked the 12th annual International Festival. From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the Campus Center was a destination for sharing culture and having fun.

Candies from across the world at the Passport to International Marketplace table.

Candies from across the world at the Passport to International Marketplace table.

The International Festival began in 2005 and was first held in Taylor Hall’s basement, then known only as University College. Since its creation, the festival was meant to display all things international at IUPUI and in the Indianapolis community. Just as much effort went into enticing students to go abroad as making IUPUI’s 2,000 international students feel welcome.

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the international diversity that we have here at IUPUI and also to showcase our academic programs that have international projects and programs,” Sara Allaei, Director of the Office of International Affairs, said. “It’s both a celebration and a networking event.”

The festival was host to not only student organizations but also to academic departments and community organizations, such as the Confucius Institute of IUPUI and Indy Internationals. This year had a record 47 exhibitors representing dozens of regions, cultures, and communities. To be a part of the festival, potential exhibitors just had to fill out the application before the deadline.

Visitors shopping at the Global Gifts booth. 

Visitors shopping at the Global Gifts booth. 

Any group that wanted to be there was welcome. Global Gifts sold its wares at a table, Indy Eleven had an inflatable soccer goal set up in the lower level, and 11 different schools from IU and IUPUI represented themselves. In order to host an event that sees about a thousand people in a day, the International Festival needed its own sponsors, so corporations like Barnes & Noble and Chartwells stepped in to help.

“[Community groups] that IUPUI partners with and [that] are engaged in international outreach in the city and central Indiana, we always like to pull them into the festival as well to showcase IUPUI’s local-but-global community engagement,” Allaei said.

Like all good college events, the festival was open to the public and had free food. Bite-sized dishes, like adobo chicken from the Phillipines and churros from Mexico, were served to anyone who stood in line for them. It was a struggle to find ideas for what to serve that was both new to students and easy to serve in sample bites.

Flaky spinach pie from Turkey, one of the sampled dishes. 

Flaky spinach pie from Turkey, one of the sampled dishes. 

Hayley Powell, the Logistics Coordinator for the event, urged student organizations to submit their own recipes because “then we know it’s from their home countries. And they can come and do a food tasting before, so we make sure it actually is what you would expect.”

“The idea behind it is to expose IUPUI students to foods that they may not have tried from different places and have input from a lot of different groups about what type of food is offered,” Evelyn Hovee, Assistant Director for International Admissions, said.

A Chinese fan dancer, performing in front of display tables and a crowd of schoolchildren. 

A Chinese fan dancer, performing in front of display tables and a crowd of schoolchildren. 

Along with food came live entertainment from across the globe. Chinese fan dance and martial artists, Bollywood dancers, and the IUPUI Swing Cats all graced the stage. Organizers like the performances in particular.

“Walking into the campus center and hearing the music, seeing the performances surrounded by all the flags that are displayed, it really makes quite a spectacle,” Allaei said.

Student organizations enjoy the festival because it gives them ample opportunity to recruit new members and represent themselves.

Students could try on a hijab at the ELS Language Centers booth. 

Students could try on a hijab at the ELS Language Centers booth. 

“We like to show that our organization’s active,” Justin Eitniear, president of the Asian Student Union, said. “We also like to meet new people.”

“Our club is built on community. Most times we don’t do info tables; it’s a matter of word of the mouth. And basically what we wanted to show is what our culture is all about, and if anybody has any questions to ask about Africa as a continent and what does it entail,” Adetoun Akinmboni, USG representative for the African Student Association said.

“That’s why we’re here today.”

Students running their booths often expressed that the diversity among the groups was one of the best things about the festival.

A sample of adobo chicken from the Philippines.

A sample of adobo chicken from the Philippines.

“It’s definitely seeing more diverse clubs, ‘cause most times you just hear about it but you don’t know that we exist on campus,” Akinmboni said.

“[My favorite part is] the collaboration between a lot of cultures and ethnicities, and they’re coming together and having this great program where everyone can learn about different cultures,” Eitniear said.