By Mykael Hyman
Middletown, PA – Penn State Harrisburg’s Global Ambassadors, in cooperation with the International Student Support Services, held this school year’s World Fest on September 29. This international festival welcomes students to expose themselves to different cultures and people through informative displays, activities, and performances.
During the world tour, 50 countries were represented, and each country had its own station with trivia questions and exotic candy waiting for passersby to participate. Students, faculty and staff attending the event were given a “passport” to get stamped at each station.
This year’s World Fest differentiates itself from last year’s festival by giving students more incentive to be involved in the fair. For example, ten stamps on your passport would be rewarded with a free authentic lunch, serving Spanish saffron rice, vegetable samosas, African chakalaka, and Asian chicken satay. Fully stamped passports earn participants a World Fest Pouch.
World Fest’s diverse program had a crowded gathering with colorful flags, posters, artifacts and instruments. Many presenters wore an iconic look originating from their country, eager to show the beauty of their countries and eradicate ignorance.
International student advisor and coordinator of World Fest, Anna Marshall, was busy this week making sure that nothing, even the poor weather, would prevent the World Fest from succeeding. Encouraging students at Penn State Harrisburg to “expand their horizons and be more involved” in events like World Fest, Marshall wants students to continue involving themselves in events, and even join the school’s Global Ambassadors program.
The Global Ambassadors is a program created in fall 2014, that strives to promote diversity and a sense of community amongst the student body. In the program, students can “develop their leadership skills and learn multicultural awareness and intercultural communication skills.”
The World Fest’s evening program started with a colorful, flag-flying parade of all the countries that were presented earlier during the virtual world tour. The event, hosted by global ambassadors, Chubo Peng and Ruta Dandekar, included guest speakers and performances portraying a diversified collection of cultures from around the world.
Chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg, Dr. Mukund Kulkarni, also attended the event, and gave a few words regarding the importance of diversity. “We need to bring some culture to the campus,” Kulkarni said, “because without art, without culture, without history, we are not complete, and our education here will not be complete.”
Performances ranged from modern Hip Hop dances (ReachUSA) to a Chinese-Korean musical duet mashup (Jeremy He and Chloe Cho.) The night was full of twirling dresses, foot-stomping, soulful music, and energetic dances from both students and professionals from around the region.
When explaining why events like the World Fest are so important, Dandekar said, “it gives you a better opportunity to look at the world outside of your country and the United States only.” Dandekar, who is a graduate student from India, goes on to explain how she’s “surprised with the kind of things that [she] learn(s) every day and see(s) all the diversity,” which is why she chose to be a part of the festival to help people see “the bigger picture.”
According to the International Student Support Services, the international student body in Penn State Harrisburg makes up about fourteen percent of the total student body. With a 50 percent increase of international students this year, those of a Chinese ethnicity add up to be the largest portion of the international student body with 475 students, which is 66 percent.
Despite Penn State Harrisburg having at least one student from the countries of Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Angola, Belgium, Hungary, Oman, Peru, and Switzerland, the World Fest did not include them in the program.
World Fest was an academically and socially fun experience that Penn State Harrisburg has been improving since previous years, thanks to the increasing amount of incoming foreign students and the open mindedness of the student body here. “Hopefully they see the diversity in this campus” and “become more globally aware. College is a nice place to do that,” Marshall said.