For the first time in two years, MSU hosted its annual Global Festival at the Union: A long-standing tradition at MSU that serves as an educational celebration of different countries and cultures from around the world.
The festival is free to anyone in the community who wants to learn about cultures that differ from their own. The event was complete with live performances of singing, dancing, traditional dance and martial arts.
“We give international students the stage to share their culture, things about their home countries or regions,” communications and community outreach coordinator for the Office of International Students and Scholars Joy Shantz said.
This year’s festival featured cultural exhibits from 18 different countries including Bangladesh, El Salvador, India, Iran and Norway. Along with the exhibits and cultural performances, the festival also includes a gift shop with items from around the world, the proceeds from which fund scholarships for international students.
International Students Association representative for the Associated Students of Michigan State University Ishwari Kapale said that the festival is an opportunity to help international students feel a sense of community.
“Especially for international students, it’s hard to be away from home,” Kapale said. “You don’t get frequent opportunities to meet family. Attending events like these just makes us feel at home away from home.”
Civil engineering senior Afiq Awai is a member of the Malaysia club and worked at the Malaysian cultural exhibit along with other club members.
“We're presenting on the culture of Malaysia,” Awai said. “We're showing our flag, which has the 14 lines which represent the 14 states of Malaysia. We're also showing some traditional clothes and traditional games and we just play games with everybody that comes here.”
Awai said that he has been to the Global Festival before COVID-19 and was excited to be back after the two-year long hiatus. His favorite part of the festival is meeting all the other people from different countries and watching the performances that students put on, specifically the Lion Dance – a traditional Chinese dance.
“I really like the culture here, especially in MSU because we have so many different cultures,” Awai said. “So we can be friends with everybody and have fun with everybody.”
Sophomore Aditya Pendyala helped run the booth for the Indian Student Organization alongside graduate student Rajat Srivastava. Originally from India, he said he feels supported by MSU as an international student.
“The fact that he’s a grad student and I’m an undergrad student and somehow we are working in the same organization says how much MSU gives you that support,” Pendyala said. “It gives you that place to be able to do such things, to be able to show culture and make people feel at home.”
MSU doctorial alumni Suby Sharma attended the festival for the third time this year. She worked the cultural exhibit for her home country of Nepal. She hopes that MSU students can take time to learn about different cultures, even outside of the festival.
“Global festival is an amazing opportunity to show our culture,” Sharma said. “We have a unique culture ... we have a world in ourselves, even being in the same country we look different. And also, our culture is the mix of Hindu and Buddhist, even though we are like 70% Hindu. Everything, all the culture, all the practices, everything is mixed with Hindu and Buddhist… So, we are rich in many different ways and not many people know that and it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase our culture.”
Interdisciplinary humanities senior Madison Hales attended Global Festival after hearing about it on Instagram and through postings at the Union. While she was originally drawn into the festival for the global gift shop, she said she enjoyed going to the different stations and learning about the different countries.
“I think it's important (to have events like this) because MSU makes up a diverse population of students and I think we can better understand our peers and our community when we understand each other's cultures,” Hales said.
Shantz said that she hopes to expand the festival in the future by including other aspects of culture, such as international food. She also hopes to partner more with the surrounding city and make it more of a community event for people to celebrate their diversity together. As for this year, however, she was just happy to be back.
“Probably the best part is just having (the festival) again and seeing that people are still interested and excited and connecting in this way,” Shantz said. “We weren't sure what turnout would be like since it hasn't happened in a long time but we're really pleased the communities obviously come out to support our international students.”
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