Celebrating Diversity at Reed’s Annual International Festival

 Photo courtesy of ISS

Photo courtesy of ISS

With national flags and bright balloons bouncing throughout the Performing Arts Building, booths representing different countries prepared, and hospitable volunteers smiling and guiding attendees throughout the large space, the annual International Festival on Saturday, November 17, welcomed the entire Reed community to celebrate cultural diversity. It was planned and executed by the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) through the International Student Services (ISS) office. The International Festival thrived, displaying performances of different countries. Some booths exhibited cultural items, such as traditional snacks and drinks, as well as touristy information about the cultural charm.

The Chinese booth presented traditional Chinese calligraphy and a poster of contemporary Internet trends, including memes based on pop culture and newly invented slang, to allow visitors to experience both the traditional and the modern aspects of China. The Korean booth welcomed visitors to stop by and grab Korean snacks and drinks, such as Orion-brand chocolate pies and honey-citrus hot tea. K-pop music contributed to the lively, celebratory vibe of the festival. Booths from other countries including Singapore, India, Nepal, and Japan also showed visitors aspects of their culture, including delicious food, exotic crafts, and traditional clothing.

 Photo courtesy of ISS

Photo courtesy of ISS

The Indian buffet was another highlight of the festival. It provided authentic Indian dishes rich in spicy ingredients not commonly found in typical Indian restaurants in the United States. At the end of the buffet table were Japanese baked red bean buns. Traditional Asian baked goods are not easily found in the Portland area, either, so they quickly ran out. The distinctiveness of the food and culture exhibitions not only saved the visitors money and energy for dinner, but also broadened their horizons and allowed them to explore a wide variety of cultures.

The next part of the festival featured vibrant performances of different cultural backgrounds. For most folks, it was their first time listening to songs in Nepali, watching performers play the plucked string instrument Guzheng — also known as Chinese zither — enjoying traditional Indian dances, or seeing many of the other art performances. The foreign but fascinating music resonated throughout the entire space of the Performing Arts Building, drawing the audience’s attention and tying people closer to each other.

The International Festival proved a success and was hugely enjoyable for the community. By facilitating cross-cultural communication, folks got the opportunity to extend their horizons and develop curiosity about the rest of the world. For international Reedies, it was a great chance for celebrating cultural uniqueness and coping with nostalgia.