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Breaking Barriers

International Festival teaches tolerance

by Published: Apr 6, 2011

All Around the World: Ferris hospitality student, Mariana Garcia and Grand Rapids resident, Nancy Ramos show their heritage. The International Festival was held to showcase the various cultures from around the world and educate students about different foods, dances and traditions. Photo By: Angie Walukonis | Photographer

All Around the World: Ferris hos­pi­tal­ity stu­dent, Mariana Garcia and Grand Rapids res­i­dent, Nancy Ramos show their her­itage. The International Festival was held to show­case the var­i­ous cul­tures from around the world and edu­cate stu­dents about dif­fer­ent foods, dances and tra­di­tions. Photo By: Angie Walukonis | Photographer

There are many faces in this world.

These faces were rep­re­sented by the 150 inter­na­tional stu­dents who show­cased their coun­tries at the 23rd International Festival of Cultures.

With over 20 coun­tries rep­re­sented at the fes­ti­val April 3, Ahmed Taha, sopho­more stu­dent from Sudan, explained how there should not be a divi­sion between peo­ple who come from dif­fer­ent places.

“There shouldn’t be a big bar­rier if some­one is not like you. Imagine if every­one looked the same and spoke the same lan­guage. I would not enjoy it,” Taha said.

The fes­ti­val offered the Ferris com­mu­nity a chance to break that bar­rier and inter­act with peo­ple from all over the world. With eth­nic dishes, cul­tural cloth­ing, music, danc­ing and even a poster com­pe­ti­tion for Big Rapids ele­men­tary stu­dents, the diverse group of stu­dents gave the com­mu­nity a chance to expe­ri­ence mul­ti­ple places in the world at one location.

Matthew Conklin, an intern in the International Office of Education, said stu­dents should not be uneasy about meet­ing some­one from another cul­ture. He com­mented on peo­ple who are afraid of meet­ing some­one who looks dif­fer­ent, say­ing “we should be embrac­ing, we’re in college.”

Conklin, a Ferris senior study­ing human resources and inter­na­tional busi­ness, con­tin­ued by say­ing, “We are all humans. We are all the same no mat­ter the skin color, nation­al­ity or reli­gion. We shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown and not be afraid as to what can make us bet­ter as individuals.”

Taha, a Ferris radi­og­ra­phy major, said events such as the fes­ti­val give peo­ple a chance to engage with oth­ers who may have a dif­fer­ent flag, style of cloth­ing or way of life.

“It is the best way to edu­cate Ferris stu­dents and American peo­ple, who have never been out of the United States, about other cul­tures from all aspects,” Taha said. “There’s a lot of help and oppor­tu­ni­ties for you to get your goals. If you walk towards it, Ferris will help you get there. You have to have the strong inten­tions to get there.”

The after­noon event, which has been bring­ing the cam­pus together for many years, con­tin­ues to encour­age stu­dents to reach out to oth­ers and expe­ri­ence their cul­ture. More than 2,000 peo­ple attended the festival.

Taha, a second-time attendee of the fes­ti­val, said last year’s fes­ti­val was extremely suc­cess­ful. As a Ferris stu­dent from Sudan, he acknowl­edges how stu­dents may think of Africa as one coun­try and might have a bad mis­con­cep­tion. He said he deliv­ers good con­cepts about his home­land and the fes­ti­val is a great oppor­tu­nity to see what other coun­tries from Africa are like.

Tara Benzing, OIE study abroad man­ager, hoped the fes­ti­val brought aware­ness to the inter­na­tional stu­dents in which the com­mu­nity can become involved with.

“We hope the com­mu­nity was able to see how many coun­tries are rep­re­sented on cam­pus, as well as learned some­thing about the cul­ture from those coun­tries from the stu­dents,” Benzing said.

For more infor­ma­tion on inter­na­tional cam­pus events, con­tact OIE at ext. 2450. n