By Sherry Shi, Staff Writer 

UMF student Shavon Gordon wears a Jamaican flag at UMaine's Culturefest (Photo Courtesy of Kasi Pratt)

UMF student Shavon Gordon wears a Jamaican flag at UMaine’s Culturefest (Photo Courtesy of Kasi Pratt)

Recently, UMF students and staff traveled to UMaine Orono for their annual Culturefest, taking advantage of the fun and exciting opportunity to learn about various cultures from around the world.

Culturefest, sponsored by the Office of International and Exchange at UMO, is a festival where international students and scholars come together to introduce their unique cultures. Information tables were set up as well as a designated food court, with a stage for each culture’s representative songs and dancing. Finishing the day, a talent show was held where individuals from the same region walked out on the stage and are announced where they are from, explaining their cultural dress and answering questions.

About 20 people from UMF attended the event, including students and staff. According to Lynne Eustis, Assistant Director for International and Exchange Programs, 1,500 people attended in total, which was “their usual attendance.”

Not only did UMaine students participate in Culturefest, but “a lot of people from the community, Bangor, Orono, that area, faculty from the university, staff, students, and not just international students, but domestic students [participate],” said Eustis. “There are usually students from other universities as well, like Husson University.” Two UMF students, Liya Mindaye from Ethiopia and Shavon Gordon from Jamaica, joined other students from their home country in a talent show, wearing their traditional clothes.

Dahir Muktar, President of the UMF Multicultural Club, was one of the students who took advantage of this enjoyable experience. Though he viewed many booths at the event, India stood out in his mind.

“I stopped and talked to a student from India, who was wearing their traditional clothes,” said Muktar. “You can ask if they wear this every day, they’ll tell you ‘yes we do’ or ‘we only wear them occasionally, like for marriage. They also have it on the table so that you can hold it and feel the texture.”

Yurong Bao, the Chinese exchange scholar at UMF from Beijing University of Technology (BJUT), was delighted to find the table from China. “They had the Chinese national flag, red lanterns, hand-made embroidered wallets, and students wearing Hanfu,” said Bao. “They also had dumplings, dim sum, chicken wings and five-spiced beef, all made by the students.”

Muktar, however, was a little disappointed that he did not find a separate table for home country Somalia. He explained jokingly that “if they had a table for each country in Africa, it would be a little too much, it won’t fit.”

The food court offered traditional food from all over the world, with a prize set up for the best dessert. “Germany wins the best dessert every year,” said Eustis. She ordered eight or nine different kinds and passed them among the eager students.

Bao recalled cultural events back at BJUT, finding similarities between those events and Culturefest. She said there are fewer countries back at home university, and international students in BJUT would communicate in Chinese instead of English. “I would have to say that I appreciate the African countries more than any other, here or back at home,” said Bao, “I feel like they are the most enthusiastic about these events. Perhaps it is their culture that made their personalities are more outgoing.”

Eustis concluded that this year’s Culturefest was generally better than last year’s. “The way it’s organized, even the way they set up the chairs to watch the show was better than last year. They also rearranged the shows so that each show would be put on at least twice,” said Eustis, “I feel like it kept people there longer for the event.”

Back at UMF, The Office of International and Exchange Programs is presenting International Education this week called, Discover the World. Special food from Latin America, France, England, Africa and Italy will be offered at the dining hall, selected especially by the international students. They will also be holding the Chinese New Year celebration next February.