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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

International Cultural Festival celebrates diversity at Saint Mary’s

Saint Mary’s hosted its annual International Cultural Festival on Thursday evening, celebrating diversity and inclusion of all the cultures and traditions that are represented at the College. Students and professors alike shared music, dance, poetry and artifacts from their home countries.

Around the World Club president and junior Gaju Gatera said the main purpose of this event — as well as all the intercultural events taking place this week — is to promote and celebrate the diversity within the Saint Mary’s community.

“We dedicate this particular week to put the spotlight on those that have grown up in a different culture or have been touched by a different culture in any shape or form,” she said. “In brief, it’s a chance to support one another and learn more about each other with a bit of food and music in the mix.”

Sandra Tarnowski, a sophomore from Poland, said the event allowed her the opportunity to share and speak out about where she comes from and learn about the cultures and practices of her peers.

“Not everyone gets to travel all the time, so this is one way of traveling — by listening to other people’s stories and getting a glimpse into someone else’s country and culture,” she said. “Often people are not able to recognize international students at first glance, so having an event like this one allows for awareness of these students on campus, as well as a way for these students to share some of their identity with the Saint Mary’s community.”

Adriana Petty, assistant director of international student/scholar services, said this festival is the biggest event for International Education Week. The week is aimed at informing students about various traditions from around the world and maintaining a welcoming environment that embraces other cultures, she said.

“This type of event allows the Saint Mary’s community to come and see the diversity on campus, as well as the beauty of cultures across the world,” Petty said. “Sometimes students are so distracted by their academics and things that they might not notice that the student sitting next to them in class is from another country.”

Petty said it is also a way to help students who are far away from home to share as well as educate their peers through their stories and talents.

“It is important to have this type of event to welcome scholars as well as students to see and share some of their culture with the campus,” she said. “I believe it provides enrichment for our community so that we can learn more about other cultures and how to work collaboratively, which is one of the big reasons to have international education.”

Sandra Usuga, an international professor from Columbia, performed various Latin American songs and discussed their origin and history. She said this event is a way of celebrating differences on campus.

“I think it’s very important for students to get an idea of the different cultures that are represented here at Saint Mary’s College,” Usuga said. “I think we should keep doing these kinds of activities to promote mutual understanding and to see how we are more similar than different and [that] differences should always be celebrated.”