International Festival Colors Campus

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The International Festival returned to the University of Tampa’s campus for the first time since 2005.

“Before I came to UT three years ago, [it] was done in conjunction with the City of Tampa. So the one I did last Friday is actually the second of its kind,” said Judith McDonald, UT International Program Assistant. “We did the first one in 2005 along with the Miss UT Competition. My predecessor did that one.”

The event ran in the Vaughn Courtyard from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. Tents were set up to provide cover for the UT students that chose to represent their countries. Several international flags were on display as well. Towards the front of the tent a stage was erected for the many performers and acts that participated.

“I had a committee of students that I conferred with about the acts. The Brazilian Martial Artists and the belly dancers are very popular amongst the students. That is why they were brought back,” said McDonald. “As for the student groups, the Greek student dancers are very popular among the students and so are the Kenyans.”

One main factor that McDonald and her student committee were able to agree on when picking the performers was the need for diversity.

According to McDonald, they had wanted some different acts from the recent year. Therefore, the Chinese Acrobats that she saw perform while in China were added to this year’s list along with the didgeridoo, a mystical instrument of the Australian Aboriginees.

“The didgeridoo was so different. We have a lot of students going to Australia, so we added them.”

UT Students Sergio Cedeno, David Pazmino and Omar Egas represented their native country of Ecuador.

“When we think of Ecuador, we think of the diversity in our people and environment. We are one of the smallest countries, but we are so diverse because of our four different regions. We have more unique species and plants than any other country per square mileage,” said the boys.

“Ecuador is home to the Galapagos Islands, which is one of the most unique islands in the world.”

The festival drew a nice crowd as other UT students piled under the tent to observe and learn about the countries on display while enjoying good entertainment.

“The chance to see all the international students come together to share their countries and culture with Americans and other international students alike is what I like most about the International Festival,” said McDonald.

The students who chose to represent their countries were asked to do a display board, have food if they desired and dress in their countries attire if they wanted.

“We contacted various international student groups to do a display, ran a table for a couple of days in the Vaughn Center, and I had big help from Nick Mavrommatis, one of our Greek/Cypriot students who did the majority of recruiting for the displays,” said McDonald.

UT students Janine, Kamala and Jonina represented their home of the Cayman Islands.

“We are known for our hospitality,” said Jonina.

One of the festivities that the people of the Cayman Islands look forward to is the Cayman Island National Festival.

“The purpose of the festival is to show that the pirates were on the island before Columbus discovered it. It’s a week long event that contains floats, people dressed up as pirates and big street dances at night,” said the girls. “Our floats and pirates are more about our heritage and our different districts.”

Kenya was another of the several countries that were highly present at the festival.

Pooja Shah, Chandni Shah, Nivav Shah and Selina Ongonga were the students responsible for Kenya’s display.

“We got together, put a board together of Kenya’s beaches, sports, tribes, agriculture and much more and completed our drawings, said the group.

Kenya is an agriculture-based society whose people use subsistance farming to make a living, according to Pooja Shah. The country also thrives off of its tourism.

“[We] are famous for our safaris. People look forward to seeing the Big Five: the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the rhinoceros and the buffalo.

The Bahamas came out on top, winning first place in the festival with Turkey and Zimbabwe tying for runner up.

There were several UT students involved in the representation of the Bahamas: Tazia Sweeting, Cheree Longley, D’asante Beneby, Lanthia Smith, Jasmin Bonimy, Claire Basden, Garith Fraser and Amanda Pender.

“We are proud to represent our country for its beauty and its beautiful, united and independent people,” said the group.

They went to great measures in order to make their country stick out from the rest. Bahamian dishes such as peas and rice, conch fritters, cracked (fried) conch, benny cake and coconut crepes were just a few of the dishes present at their table.

“I wanted the students to have the knowledge that there is another whole world outside the United States and to get a glimpse of another culture. In return, they may want to travel to that country and explore, live, work/play,” said McDonald.

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