By Natalia Asis, Staff Writer

Exchange students from France from left to right: Douglas  Neveu, Valentine Desplat, Ophélie De San Bartholomé, Noémie  Huchon and Mélissa Guittet

Exchange students from France from left to right: Douglas
Neveu, Valentine Desplat, Ophélie De San Bartholomé, Noémie
Huchon and Mélissa Guittet
(Photo by Natalia Asis).

As UMF students entered Mallett Hall on Nov. 27, something was different. If they closed their eyes for a moment, it may have almost felt as if they had teleported to France: engulfed by the quiet music, the romance language spoken by some students, and the smells of the typical cuisine. What really was going on was the Vive La France! cultural program.
The event’s main objective was to promote a different culture. “Cultural awareness is really what we are going for. It’s a way to get our domestic students more aware and interested in other cultures,” said Lynne Eustis, from the Office of International and Exchange Programs, who organized and funded the activity.
Ophélie De San Bartholomé, an exchange student and one of the French Teacher Assistant’s (T.A.) at UMF said, “It’s about experiencing something different that people may not be able to find here. It’s about discovering other cultures.”
For this event, many exchange students from France cooked a feast to share with their peers, prepared a quiz game and played francophone music. “Food is one of the most important cultural aspects. It’s also a matter of identity,” said De San Bartholomé, “because each region has its own dishes. It’s very diversified and regional. It’s not only about croissants and crêpes.”
There were many different dishes to choose from; including different quiches and cakes. “We are making Flammekueche which would be my favorite one,” said De San Bartholomé, “It looks like a pizza but instead of tomato sauce, its cream, caramelized onions and pork meat on top. It’s from a region near Germany.”
“I loved the crêpes and the chocolate mousse. It tasted so good! I liked all of it. I want to learn how to make some of the dishes,” said Megan Crosby, a freshman at UMF.
“We do them in the residence halls because we feel more students will come. Hopefully, from some other halls and not only from the one we are having it in,” said Eustis. “We are trying to work with the C.A.s because they have programming requirements that they need to fulfill so we work in conjunction.”
John Oschira is a C.A. in Mallett Hall and was involved in the organization of this event. “I love people and food. I have always done multicultural programs as a CA on the international floor,” he said, “It never gets old to me because there is always something new to learn and something delicious to eat, why would anyone complain?”
Although this was a first for France, many similar events have taken place in the past. “We started last year trying to offer cultural programming specific to the countries from which we had visitors on campus. Last year we had two events for Argentina, one for China and we also did African countries too,” said Eustis.
Chinese New Year will be one of the events in the spring since it falls on Feb. 10, 2013. “We’ll have Chinese New Year in the North Dining Hall, not in the halls, because it’s right across from the kitchen. The Chinese visitors will use the kitchen to cook all the food,” said Eustis. Last year there was food, music and Mahjong games.
One of the Argentinean events was a cooking event. “We did empanadas [a traditional pie dish from Argentina] so the students could actually roll the dough, fill them and cook them,” said Eustis, “We also had dancing and music.”