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Colorful flags decorated the Vaughn Plaza, the luscious smell of food filled the air and international students proudly displayed their country’s culture at UT’s 3rd Annual International Festival.
Hundreds of students traveled through the courtyard from country to country. They tasted international cuisine, listened to the latest world music and learned about each country’s culture.
The festivity, covered by a huge tent, had more than 30 country displays representing Zimbabwe, Trinidad, Kenya and many more including the United States.
Coordinator of the International Festival Judith McDonald had a huge smile on her face when she talked about the event.
“I couldn’t be happier. I worked hard, the students worked hard and this is a great turnout so far.”
International student, Jamarah Letshwiti, proudly wearing a black, white and blue mini-flag on her shirt representing Botswana thought the festival was fun and educational.
“I’m enjoying it a lot. I actually learnt that Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, which means that it doesn’t have access to the sea. I never knew that and I’m from Africa”
Representing one of the African countries, Chedu Moyo from Zimbabwe had a country display. Beautifully dressed in a blue, yellow and red African outfit, Moyo talked about her country.
“I’m showing the real Zimbabwe to people because everyone thinks we have lions running around in our backyards. This is not true. We have a real city called Harare. We have Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World,” she says while proudly displaying a picture of the beautiful falls.
The Caribbean also had proud representatives and Lakshman Lochan wore his pride for everyone to see. Adorned in body paint with the bright Trinidadian colors of black, red and white and feathers and beads hanging from his waist, hands and feet, Lochan talked about the significance of his attire.
“I’m wearing a typical carnival costume to celebrate carnival, which is the largest festival in Trinidad. Usually the costume is more extravagant with a head dress and more decorations.”
Nadya Tilluckdharry also from Trinidad talked about the country display.
“We have information about the geography, basic statistics of Trinidad, places of interest, festivals and sports,” she says.
Intricately placed on their table were samples of Trinidadian food like kurma, a spicy mango chow, roti, phdourie and other delicacies.
The festival not only included country displays, but also performances. Exotic belly dancers, professional Cuban dancers and agile Chinese acrobats awed the students with interactive performances.
However, it was the student performances that had the most attention and interaction.
Jamarah Letshwiti loved the Kenyan dancers and music.
“They were great! African power!” she says.
American Jessica Rosado also praised the student performances.
“I love the dancing of the Arabic group because you can see that they’re really embracing their culture. They got up there and broke it down.”
Selina Ong’ong’a from Kenya was proud of her country.
“When I saw the Kenyans on stage dancing, I couldn’t resist. I had to represent too and break it down!”
After all the dancing, the International Programs Office announced the winners of the country displays.
Zimbabwe and the Turks and Caicos Island were runners up receiving $50 gift certificates to the International Mall.
Moyo expressed her happiness while displaying her certificate.
“It feels great! I’m happy considering all the effort that was put in.”
Sheryl McLaughlin from the Turks and Caicos shouted her remarks while dancing with her crew.
“It’s the first time we entered so it feels great. Hard work definitely pays off!”
Then, it was the Bahamas who took home the prize of a $200 gift certificate to the International Mall. All the Bahamians rushed the stage screaming and shouting, waving their flags and dancing to their music when they heard “The Bahamas.”
“I can’t breathe,” Bahamian Amanda Pinder said after receiving the certificate. “It was all hard work. We deserved it!”
By the end of the day, many students were pleased with the 3rd annual international festival.
“I loved it! I’m glad I was apart of it,” Moyo said.
Ellie Clements from the United States was impressed as this was her first time attending the festival.
“I think there was a lot of positive energy. It opened my eyes to how beautiful every culture is. I’m definitely coming back next year.”
International Festival 2007 started off with a shower of rain but ended with a shower of praise. The evening of culture likely left an imprint in the hearts of many UT students.