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Cultural Night and Expo highlights customs and traditions from around the globe

International students from around the world showcased their cultures at the Cultural Night and Expo on Saturday in Finch Fieldhouse.

Hundreds of people from the Mount Pleasant and CMU community gathered to learn more about the cultures of CMU’s international students and enjoy the variety of activities and events planned throughout the expo.

Cultural Night is presented by the International Student Organization. ISO considers it to be the biggest multicultural event on campus. Saturday’s expo was the third annual event hosted by the organization.

Lebanon senior Mariam Saad, president of ISO, believes the expo offers a “tour of the world” for attendees. As a previous participant last year, Saad sees the event as a bridge between various communities and a way to bring the homes of international students to the city.

“This is one of our ways to build the connection between international students and non-international students, and give international students the grandest way to showcase themselves as international students,” Saad said. “It is bringing their culture to life”.

Dozens of cultural booths lined the room — each highlighting the home country of an international student — with some tables having multiple students from the same place or some family members.

Students volunteered for these tables and were given freedom to present their cultures in any way they thought best. There were booths with flags of their countries, while others had pictures of notable cultural landmarks.

Many had decorations, clothing and distinctive snacks. Most tables had trifold boards showcasing interesting information from their cultures.

Egypt junior Ahmed Sharaf had his own table which presented his culture. It held the Egyptian Flag, a bean dip with vegetables and a board with lotus flowers because they are popularly grown in Egypt. Sharaf chose to volunteer for Cultural Night for the opportunity to be a part of a bigger community of international students and represent his whole culture to Mount Pleasant with them.

“An international event like this is special because years ago, we couldn’t reach this point of integration,” Ahmed says. “This event is a milestone for communication between different cultures and that can be seen in all of the people here today”.

The event was hosted by junior Noah Wangberg, who facilitated the expo from activity to activity. He also called the raffle draw every half hour, which people could enter by taking a picture in the photo booth and uploading a photo to ISO’s Facebook, or by filling out a quiz survey including facts from several of the cultures represented at the expo.

There was also a henna booth, where attendees could get temporary cultural tattoos. By the end of the expo, there were about 100 people with elaborate and beautiful henna patterns on their wrists and hands.

Cultural performances were presented throughout, with international students volunteering beforehand to perform on stage. Various performers danced, sang, played instruments and did comedy skits to highlight aspects of their cultures.

Pakistan freshman Fahad Zafar chose to sing a song in his native tongue to show off his singing skills and showcase his culture. To him, the expo and cultural performances offer a way for students to highlight their love of their home countries as well as showcase their individual identities.

“It is very important to know about different cultures. There are many countries presented at the tables and tables representing their cultures,” Zafar said. “You can gain knowledge about who they are, from where they are from”.

Cultural Night also held a fashion show, with numerous students walking across the stage to flaunt their cultural attire. The audience cheered and took pictures as the students showcased their pride in unique and colorful fashions from their respective countries.

India graduate student Deepthi Valleru participated in Cultural Night for the second consecutive year.

“I was interested in the cultural participation part of the fashion show,” Valleru said. “I participated to inform others about Indian tradition and clothing”.

The end of the cultural night featured expo awards, which honored best cultural performer, best decorated table and most colorful table based on audience votes.

The expo also held a surprise flash dance. The lights went out and came back on for attendees to see a dozen plus international students and ISO members dancing in synchronicity to hype cultural music. People from around the room gathered to take pictures and videos as the students did their choreographed dance with gusto and glee.

As she left, Mount Pleasant resident Kendall Farnum said she would definitely come to next year’s Cultural Night and believes the expo is important for the community as a whole.

“Given our current, political, and social climate, its important people take advantage of things like this to see, hear, and meet people that are different than themselves,” Farnum said. “We have got a lot of fear in several levels of society, and it’s better for us to meet people and make friends so we can realize we are all people."