The energy was electric in Castleton University’s 1787 Room last Thursday and the music was booming throughout the Campus Center.
That’s because the international students were getting their festival on!
A group of international students and Coordinator of Pathway Program for English Language Learners, Adrienne Matunas, organized an event to showcase the cultures of Castleton’s international students through food, dance, music and communication.
“It’s a really great experience because I get to let everyone know a little bit about my culture and try my food and whenever they say it’s good or it’s great, it makes me happy,” said Gabriela Guerrero, a student from the Dominican Republic.
According to Matunas, this event was an opportunity to not only share about students’ cultures, but also improve their language skills.
“Their projects were to send out emails, correspond with faculty and staff about getting microphones, setting up. And that was a big challenge for them using their English skills,” said head of the International Committee for SGA, Bethany Alvarez. “And even in our fund-raiser, they were counting English money. It was all a part of the learning experience.”
This event was also intended to integrate the Castleton community with the international community and encourage sharing and camaraderie.
“So, I don’t think it’s great. I think that there is a bit of a separation in terms of how international student are a little more limited to people they know or people who approach them first,” Alvarez said. “I think a lot of students don’t do that. They are either timid or don’t know what to say. I think events like this are great ways to connect students and I think we should have them more often.”
For one international student, however, he feels a big change from the beginning of the semester to now as far as merging communities and cultures.
“It’s definitely better. I was trying really hard and it didn’t work out. But right now, after taking it easy and not worrying too much, I’ve met more and more people and I like showing my culture to people,” said Aarif Badarny, from Israel. “We did this at a workshop in Washington and it was like 120 students from 60 countries and they all joined in, they were all dancing. It was incredible.”
Dancing was one of the major highlights of the International Student Festival. Badarny led a circle of close to 20 students all jumping around and having fun together.
“Even if they don’t know how to dance, just feel the music and jump and have fun. I was happy that students from here joined,” he said. “I’ve taught some people some things and that is something I’ll cherish and appreciate.”
Elnura Alinova, from Kyrgyzstan, said she had such a fun time organizing the event and gained a lot of leadership skills in the process.
“In my country, we have diversity week and we have a Facebook group where people say “I’m going to represent China” or “I’m going to represent Russia, who wants to join?”’ Alinova said. “We prepare for one month and then for seven days we will do one day of food and one day of performances and then on the final days, everyone is dancing all together.”
Alinova, along with the others who helped organize and participated, said they hope events like this continue to be had at Castleton for the semesters to come.