This past Sunday night was alive with music and the smell of great food as student organizations collected to celebrate diversity across Western Michigan University’s campus.
On March 25, WMU hosted their 30th annual International Festival on the second floor of the Bernhard Center. The event featured performances and presentations from student organizations representing different cultures and nationalities around the world.
“This event is about commonalities we have all over the world,” Paulo Zagalo-Melo, associate provost for global education, said.
This theme of global fellowship was greatly apparent as rooms filled up with people looking at booths and presentations set up by student organizations such as the Latino Student Alliance, the Bronco African Student Association, the Dominican Student Association and many others.
“This festival is student led,” Zagalo-Melo said. “ The student organizations organize everything.”
These organizations set up displays about the cultures and nationalities that they represented and many of these had samples of their cuisines.
Among these global groups present at the festival, there was also a display set up by the WMU Chess Club.
“You don’t need a language to play chess,” Ateeb Syed, a member of the Chess Club, said.
Syed discussed the rich history of chess around the world and the use of it as a commonality between countries all over the world as well as talking about how the Chess Club helps to further the ideals of internationality.
“We encourage this global idea on a weekly basis,” Syed said.
In the past thirty years that the festival has taken place, it has continued to grow and Zagalo-Melo attributes this to a steady increase in international enrollment at WMU.
“We have been increasing international enrollment while others have seen declines,” Zagalo-Melo said.
He also stressed that while many colleges or universities have large populations of students from one part of the world, WMU has students from over one hundred different countries
“It’s this diversity that allows for this festival to happen,” Zagalo-Melo said. “It’s important to make the international students feel at home.”
The festival has already grown from using a few rooms to encompassing the entire second floor of the Bernhard Center and Zagalo-Melo hopes it will continue to grow.
“We don’t just want this to be a WMU event. We want this to be a Kalamazoo community event,” Zagalo-Melo said.
The evening ended with a fashion show as the judges tallied up the scores for the displays and the performances. The Outstanding Table Display of the Year award as well as a check made out to the organization went to the Omani Student Association while the Best Performance of the Year went to the Indian Student Association.