“A Parade of Nations” showcases Hesston’s cultural diversity

Students gather for a photo with Dave Osborne after the international festival.

By Kendra Litwiller – Horizon News and Features Editor

Entering the Hesston College dining hall, an array of aromas met our noses.  Though the smells didn’t seem to mix, they were delicious and intriguing.  As we walked through the dinner line, signs pointed out the names of foods and the far-off places they came from.  Not knowing where to start – at Soto Ayam (chicken soup) from Indonesia or Shogayaki (ginger pork) from Japan – we sat down with plates full and expectations high.  Thus began “A Parade of Nations,” Hesston’s International Festival on March 22.

As an international student, Zenawit Nerae says she finds it essential to be able to share her culture with others.  Her country is extremely important to her, and she finds the International Festival an effective way to teach about her native culture as well as learn about others’.

“One of the things I looked for when I applied is whether or not Hesston College had an international festival,” said Nerae, a sophomore from Ethiopia.

Nerae worked tirelessly along with the other international students to make the festival a success.  The planning committee, which started meeting back in January, began by dividing themselves into a few sub-committee. Each focused on a different part of the festival, such as the program or decorations.  Nerae was in charge of the program committee as well as emceeing the event along with English faculty and international student advisor Dave Osborne.

The theme, “A Parade of Nations” focused on the flag of each country and also an Olympic athlete who represented each.  Students took it upon themselves to learn about their flags and share the stories behind each colorful banner. As part of the program committee, Nerae asked for volunteers among the international students to both perform and speak about their countries.

“I liked how everything just fell into place,” she said.

Other students seemed just as eager to share about their cultures as Nerae was.  Students from seven of the 14 countries represented at Hesston performed a bevy of songs and dances from their countries, and spoke about their countries’ flags.

“My flag means a lot to me,” Nerae stated, “so it was interesting to learn about the flags of other countries.”

As well as participating as an emcee, Nerae was able to perform an Ethiopian dance with fellow Ethiopian students Asbel Assefa, Herane Girma, Melat Bulti, and a student from Oklahoma, Cee Cee Wingo.  According to Nerae, Wingo caught on quickly to the Ethiopian dancing, and the girls had a blast teaching her.

Nerae stated that she enjoyed both teaching and learning during the International Festival.  Although the festival happens each year, Nerae pointed out that the ever-changing themes helps keep things fresh.

“There’s something new every year,” she said.

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