Breaking barriers

International Festival teaches tolerance

All Around the World: Ferris hospitality student, Mariana Garcia and Grand Rapids resident, Nancy Ramos show their heritage. The International Festival was held to showcase the various cultures from around the world and educate students about different foods, dances and traditions. Photo By: Angie Walukonis | Photographer

All Around the World: Ferris hospitality student, Mariana Garcia and Grand Rapids resident, Nancy Ramos show their heritage. The International Festival was held to showcase the various cultures from around the world and educate students about different foods, dances and traditions. Photo By: Angie Walukonis | Photographer

There are many faces in this world.

These faces were represented by the 150 international students who showcased their countries at the 23rd International Festival of Cultures.

With over 20 countries represented at the festival April 3, Ahmed Taha, sophomore student from Sudan, explained how there should not be a division between people who come from different places.

“There shouldn’t be a big barrier if someone is not like you. Imagine if everyone looked the same and spoke the same language. I would not enjoy it,” Taha said.

The festival offered the Ferris community a chance to break that barrier and interact with people from all over the world. With ethnic dishes, cultural clothing, music, dancing and even a poster competition for Big Rapids elementary students, the diverse group of students gave the community a chance to experience multiple places in the world at one location.

Matthew Conklin, an intern in the International Office of Education, said students should not be uneasy about meeting someone from another culture. He commented on people who are afraid of meeting someone who looks different, saying “we should be embracing, we’re in college.”

Conklin, a Ferris senior studying human resources and international business, continued by saying, “We are all humans. We are all the same no matter the skin color, nationality or religion. We shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown and not be afraid as to what can make us better as individuals.”

Taha, a Ferris radiography major, said events such as the festival give people a chance to engage with others who may have a different flag, style of clothing or way of life.

“It is the best way to educate Ferris students and American people, who have never been out of the United States, about other cultures from all aspects,” Taha said. “There’s a lot of help and opportunities for you to get your goals. If you walk towards it, Ferris will help you get there. You have to have the strong intentions to get there.”

The afternoon event, which has been bringing the campus together for many years, continues to encourage students to reach out to others and experience their culture. More than 2,000 people attended the festival.

Taha, a second-time attendee of the festival, said last year’s festival was extremely successful. As a Ferris student from Sudan, he acknowledges how students may think of Africa as one country and might have a bad misconception. He said he delivers good concepts about his homeland and the festival is a great opportunity to see what other countries from Africa are like.

Tara Benzing, OIE study abroad manager, hoped the festival brought awareness to the international students in which the community can become involved with.

“We hope the community was able to see how many countries are represented on campus, as well as learned something about the culture from those countries from the students,” Benzing said.

For more information on international campus events, contact OIE at ext. 2450. n