'International Cultural Expo' showcases cultures from different countries


Ann Arbor senior Hannah Mauch dances during the International Cultural Expo April 5 in Finch Field house. 

What stood out most at the International Cultural Expo 2019 was the colors: Vibrant reds, deep blues, bright yellows, vivid greens and many more.

The International Cultural Expo showcased cultures from more than 16 different countries on April 5 in Finch Fieldhouse.

“The expo is all about celebrating our wonderful international community through live performances, art, cultural displays and a diverse community of people,” said Lansing sophomore Alejandro Salais, co-host and performer. “Through this event, we hope to encourage the spirit of diversity, amazement, knowledge and curiosity about countries from all across the world.”

Organized by the International Student Organization in partnership with Central Michigan University, the event featured a cultural talent and fashion show, which spotlighted different music, dances and cultural garb.

“I want (attendees) to get a feel of how different people and cultures are, and kind of feel like they're traveling around the world," said ISO president Sara Shalabi, a senior from Saudi Arabia. "Let's say you have a classmate from a different country, you're not going to understand where they come from or their perspective of life until you have the time to talk to them and see what makes them different and where they come from."

Some of the performances included the Indian Student Association's devotional song, a Mexican dance to "Jarabe Tapatio," the national anthem of Bangladesh, "Amar Sonar Bangla," and a dance from the Asian Cultural Organization, among others.

An international buffet followed the fashion show, which taught attendees how to say "hello" in several different languages. Throughout the event, numerous cultural organizations and RSOs also tabled to share information and traditions. 

For Flint graduate student Elayashia Kendall, the event was “phenomenal” and the opportunity to experience multiple different cultures personally resonated with her.

“I’m black and I love expressing my blackness, so to see somebody expressing who they are and to be accepted for who they are is amazing to me,” Kendall said. 

The expo is an annual event that has been around since the 1990s, but the event’s scale has grown bigger since expanding to the Mount Pleasant community. 

Karen Bertodatto was among the Mount Pleasant residents who attended the event and said she was amazed by the scope of the event.

“I think it's amazing, the talent has been wonderful," Bertodatto said. "My husband doesn't like to travel, so I'm not going to get to see most of these countries in my lifetime, so it's nice to see that culture without having to leave my community."

The expo brought in approximately 400 attendees. Shalabi reflected on organizing the event, which she said was simultaneously stressful and rewarding.

"I'm feeling very proud of my team for setting up all of this and their hard work and every single detail," Shalabi said. "And at the same time, I feel very proud of being the voice to allow international students to represent themselves."