Students celebrate International Culture Festival, create cross-cultural dialogue

Bethany Stork

The sound of upbeat music, laughter and conversation attracted passersby walking by Gregory Gym Plaza on Wednesday night to learn more about international culture and enjoy games, pizza and a dancing performance.

The International Culture Festival, hosted by the Ismaili Muslim Students Association, brought together nine cultural student organizations to present games and information on cultural celebrations around the world.

“Our goal is to increase cross-culture dialogue and promote a pluralist space on campus,” said Ammn Meghani, finance sophomore and vice president of external affairs for the association. “It’s important to discuss these sorts of things to bring culture into discussion so we can all be more aware, respectful and informed.”

Meghani said the celebration was the second culture festival hosted by the organization, and four organizations participated in the event last fall.

Mahek Teajani, vice president of internal affairs for the association, has participated in the organization since her freshman year and said she is excited to see the festival grow.

“It’s really great to see people engage with each other and with the organizations we have here to learn more about the world around them,” said Teajani, management information systems senior. “It makes me happy to know we’re doing something that benefits both organizations and the students who visit us.”

Attendees filled out cards with stamps each time they visited an organization’s table and participated in an activity or dialogue. They also played with a Japanese wooden toy called kendama, filled out sticky notes with ways they celebrated cultural differences and talked to organizations. Attendees could exchange their filled out cards for a slice of pizza.

Electrical engineering freshman Joshua Fick, who attended the event, said it was exciting to see so many cultures represented in one place.

“(The event) is bringing unity to UT,” Fick said. “It’s making learning fun and giving me a reason to learn more about the world around me.”

The event featured a performance by the Texas Dragon/Lion Dance Team, a dance group that shares the art of dragon and lion dancing with the Austin community, according to their website. 

Teajani said most of the people who stopped by the festival were curious students walking down Speedway.

“People hear and see what all we’re doing, and we give them reasons to stay,” Teajani said. “It’s most rewarding to see people smiling with friends and people they meet while learning and having fun.”