The International Festival Celebrates Diversity

The fifth annual International Festival highlights NC State’s diversity and multiculturalism. The International Festival is a partnership event supported by the Office of International Services, the Office of Global Engagement, Student Government, Student Leadership and Engagement, and Multicultural Student Affairs.

The International Festival was started in 2017 by two NC State students “to show that we value diversity, inclusivity and cultural competence, not bigotry, hatred and divisiveness.” 

Due to the pandemic, the International Festival was canceled in 2020. In order to continue the purpose of the International Festival, the planning committee hosted an International Snack Box pick-up for students in April of 2021 to provide students a glimpse into the meaning of the International Festival.  

Arial view of the international festival

This year, the International Festival brought together over 350 students, staff, faculty and community members who were encouraged to interact with over 15 cultural booths hosted by students and campus departments/organizations. Participants received “boarding passes” to collect stamps from different booths to be exchanged for t-shirts or snack boxes containing snack food from around the globe.

International Festival participant Oluwatimilehin Oluwajire, a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering, reflected on his experience at the event: “The International Festival gave me the first opportunity to speak and interact with diverse students from different countries who were table hosts. This left me with an impression of how much the NC State community is culturally rich. I had a taste of both the food and culture of the different countries represented. It wasn’t just fun, but also an eye-opener. I am thankful to the organizers.”

Coming Together as a Community

“The International Festival has always been a labor of love since I joined the planning committee,” says Asia King, International Programs Coordinator in the Office of International Services. “Being able to see the International Festival return while seeing the connections being built between our entire student population regardless of their background makes all of the planning challenges worth it. Our hope for next year is to return the program to student leaders to fully innovate on what they imagine the International Festival to be. Personally, I would love to double the number of booth participants and also build in workshops after the performance groups for our campus community to learn more about the cultural performances being shared.”

“Community building is also a large aspect of the International Festival,” emphasizes Asia King. “For many of our student population, they have yet to see an event such as the International Festival held on campus. Throughout the event, NC State students, faculty, staff, and community members came together to learn more about our Wolfpack World.”

A "boarding pass" of the International Festival laying on buttons that say Wolfpack in different languages.
International Festival participants were encouraged to check in with their ID, receive a boarding pass, participate in activities and redeem their boarding pass for a giveaway of either a t-shirt or a global snack box.

“My favorite thing was to see different cultures together and learn as much as possible from everyone about their countries and cultures,” says Dr. Murat Rakap. Dr. Rakap is a professor of Inorganic Chemistry in Turkey but has been at NC State’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Scholar since early September 2021. 

Students stopping by the Lebanon booth.
Students stopping by the Lebanon booth.

Several of the booths offered traditional foods that International Festival participants got to try such as sopapilla from Chile, tea from Turkey, and coffee from Peru. Students from NC State’s Asian Students Association also practiced traditional Chinese fortune-telling. 

“It was a day of united cultures of NC State. At the Peru booth, I had a cup of lyrical coffee, and at the Bolivian desk, I met a famous cultural singer whose name is Gladys Moreno. I also had a chance to taste some Bolivian-Chinese homemade food and practice some French at the French booth. The Turkish booth was also wonderful! It made me and my husband feel at home. Overall I can say that I felt spring’s joy, creativity, unity in the air, and want to thank everyone who organized the day,” says Dr. Asiye Parlak-Rakap, professor of Early Childhood Education and Postdoctoral Visiting Scholar at NC State’s Psychology Department. 

Two visiting scholars from Turkey holding up their International Festival t-shirts.
Dr. Rakap and Dr. Parlak-Rakap are both visiting scholars from Turkey. They redeemed their boarding pass for a t-shirt. “The t-shirts are very nice and will be a good way for us to remember our days in Raleigh and at NC State. I am sure we will really miss these days,” says Dr. Rakap

How Global Engagement Plays a Crucial Role in DEI education for Staff and Students

The Global Training Initiative (GTI) hosted a table for their Developing Cultural Competence (DCC) Student Certificate Program. In addition to promoting registration for the upcoming offerings in May, June and July, DCC program facilitators awarded past participants a keychain version of the digital badge they had previously earned. Since 2020, 341 NC State and 109 SKEMA students have completed the program and were invited to collect the prize. Since the start of the pandemic, an additional 886 students from NC State’s partner institutions have completed the virtual exchange version of the program. 

Three GTI student employees working at the GTI booth during the International Festival.
Sofia Lee, Maitreyee Kulkarni and Nicole Moore – GTI student employees.

Celebrating Through Dance

Throughout the event, there were cultural performances by Sube Ritmo, NC State’s only Latin dance team, Thandav, an Indian classical dance team promoting cultural awareness through “choreography, music, and passion” as well as an impromptu performance by a Dabke group who demonstrated a Middle Eastern folklore dance and invited audience members to participate. 

An Indian dance crew performing a traditional Indian dance during the International Festival in March 2022.
Thandav performing during the 2022 International Festival.

Leaving Your Mark

To visualize the global diversity on campus, anyone passing by the Free Expression Tunnel was encouraged to leave their mark on a global Wolfpack mural. “We asked International Festival participants to put their thumbprint on any location of significance to them – where they may have studied abroad, where they want to travel, where their families are from, etc.,” says Kemmia Ghodrat, Undergraduate Intern at the Office of Global Engagement and organizer of the Wolfpack World mural. 

A student leaving his mark (thumb print dipped in paint) at the Wolfpack World mural in the free expression tunnel.
A student leaving his mark on the Wolfpack World painting.

Looking Ahead

The International Festival Planning Committee is looking forward to next year’s International Festival. If you or your organization are looking for ways to get involved, please email our planning committee at internationalfestival@ncsu.edu.

This post was originally published in Office of Global Engagement.