International Expo attracts more than 200 students from more than 24 different countries

Melissa Bloem/Staff Photographer Swetha Purma begins creating an intricate Menhandi design on Janki Patel, Chicago freshman, at the International Expo in the University Center Terrace on Sunday afternoon.

Srikanth Seelam stood in front of his display table, dressed in traditional Indian clothing. He placed his palms together as in prayer and bowed his head.

"This is how we greet each other in India," said Seelam, a graduate student from India. Three onlookers greeted him back, in a similar fashion.

The display tables behind him were overflowing with Indian artifacts, flags, informational posters, cuisine and maps; one showing the 30 different languages that are spoken throughout India.

This display was an attempt to capture India's culture, one, in the words of Seelam, that is made of "one billion people, one billion hearts."

It was one of 24 different displays that made up the International Expo.

Deemed the International Student Organization's biggest event of the year by ISO President Ibrahim Neyazmuhammed, a graduate student from Saudi Arabia, the Expo was a chance for several international cultures on campus to come under one roof and share their cultures and traditions.

About 275 students attended the expo, which was held Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. in the University Center Bovee Rotunda. The event was free and open to the public.

Abdulrahman Alfawaz, a freshman from Saudi Arabia, sat on a cushion next to his display table, behind a display of Saudi Arabian foods, including butter coffee, crackers and date cookies. According to Alfawaz, it represented a common scene in the country, not even 100 years ago, when a majority of Saudis still lived in tents.

"We want to share our culture and make students familiar with it on campus," Alfawaz said.

Freshman Toktar Alimbekov also shared many of his country's trademark cuisines, including "Kurt," a fried, rock-hard cheese, that was supposed to be sucked, not eaten.

"It's not like American cheese," the Kazakhastan native said. "Don't bite it."

The Expo also featured several presentations from multiple countries and served a hot meal consisting of food from nine different countries.

Freshman Anmar Khalawi of Saudi Arabia performed a traditional Saudi Arabian song on guitar but played it in a non-traditional way.

"It's an Arabic song, except it's like a mix," Khalawi said. "I played it the American way, on guitar."

Khalawi said events like this are important to international students around campus.

"It allows us to share our culture and support others around campus," Khalawi said.

Matthew Roede, a Kent City freshman, said he came to the event because an international student he sat next to in a class told him about it.

"It's just great to see all these countries that have so many different things going on," Roede said. "It's kind of like a race to see all the different stuff."

Neyazmuhammed said the event went better than expected.

"We've been working on this for four weeks," Neyazmuhammed said. "... It's huge for us, because this is a chance for every culture to express itself in the same place"


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