Katie Samek – Staff Writer
International Culture Club would like to formally invite the student body to attend its annual International Festival on Friday, March 10 in Alumni Hall from 7-9 p.m. A follow-up dance will be held downstairs in the Dive after the Festival from 9:30-11 p.m.
This event will feature both student-made and catered food inspired by Asian and Indian cultures, a multicultural fashion show, student performances, a surprise off-campus professional performance, and several games and challenges with opportunities to win prizes. Returning again for this year’s festival will be the Spicy Ramen Challenge, in which students can sign up to compete to finish a bowl of spicy ramen and then blow up a balloon. The first contestant to finish their ramen and successfully inflate their balloon wins.
This event is one of several that will be taking place during International Week, which runs from March 6-10. There are plans for an inter-organization event on March 7, as well as a movie night to be held in the Dive on March 8. Details for both of these events are forthcoming and will be formally announced at a later date. The week sums up with the Festival on March 10.
International Culture Club has been hosting the International Festival for several years now, with existing campus records dating back to 2001; likely even further back than that. The last event of this kind that was pre-COVID was hosted in 2019 with great success before being shut down for two years due to the pandemic. 2021 saw the return of the event with a mini-festival, while the first full International Festival post-pandemic was hosted last year in 2022.
“The hope behind hosting the mini-festival in 2021 was to reignite interest in International Cultures Club,” co-president of International Cultures Club and Junior Christina Sirbu said. “What we didn’t anticipate was just how much interest it would generate. Over 300 students attended the International Festival in 2022 – so many that we ran out of our catered food long before the event was over. We have a better gauge on student attendance now, so hopefully, that doesn’t happen again this year.”
International Cultures Club has collaborated with several other student organizations to help make this event possible, in particular the fashion walk. Pan-African Student Organization (PASO) and Organization for Latinex American Students (OLAS) have both assisted in running this aspect of the event in years past, and several students from various other cultural organizations on campus have served both as performers and as assistants for the event as well. However, International Cultures Club treasurer and Junior Celeste Thalhammer encourages students of all cultural backgrounds to attend the event.
“I joined ICC because I attended one of their events in the past, and loved it so much that I wanted to help continue the tradition,” Thalhammer said. “Even if the majority of students that attend these events are students of color, this truly is an international event. It gives everyone an opportunity to share their own culture and heritage with the rest of the student body, just like it gave me the chance to show how I was international in my own way.”
International Cultures Club co-president and Senior Ana Martinez believes that the International Festival is an opportunity for all students to share their heritage, regardless of where they’re from.
“The International Festival is a way for students from all backgrounds to feel proud of where they come from, not just international students. It’s a good chance to get to know other students and make connections not just with other cultures, but your own as well,” Martinez said.
Sirbu acknowledges that many students, especially white students, may feel out of place, or that they somehow ‘don’t belong’ at an event like this. However, she believes that everyone has a place at the International Festival, and invites everyone to attend to celebrate Gustavus’ diverse student community.
“The International Festival is a space which welcomes all. Diversity means inclusion, and events like this allow us to show off just how diverse our student body really is. It’s a time to leave your worries at the door and have fun – we’re all united and unique in our own ways, and events like this are a perfect way to share our own experiences with the world,” Sirbu said.