The sum of all art, love and thought

“I heard about Culture Night,” John said, while waiting in the food line, “so I decided to check it out.”

Good choice, John.

International Students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City threw a lively party – an evening of food and fun – for the 6th annual Culture Night at the UMKC Student Union. Students from more than 20 countries danced and sang; walked the fashion runway; displayed stringed instruments, currency and jewelry; and offered samples of dates, sweets and coffees, as well as a buffet dinner.

Four big screens flashed a definition of ‘culture’ as “the sum of all the forms of art, love and thought.” But ask the participants, and they would tell you that culture means more when it is shared with others and new friendships are formed.

Up and down the hallway and throughout the auditorium, brilliant flags were overshadowed by colorful clothes and accessories. But the contrast of 21st century modern with cultural history was evident. Traditional wear was paired with athletic shoes and fashionable knee-high boots. The ever-present cell phones were another sign of an expanding world.

In addition to the craft items and goods common to home, visitors could talk with a representative of International Students, Inc., an organization offering students far from home some spiritual support to help them through the usual period of adjustment. Other booths offered raffles and gifts.

Participants represented Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, China, Korea, India, Brazil, the U.S., Vietnam, Mexico, Nigeria, Liberia, the Dominican Republic and Bangladesh. They feasted on such dishes as chicken tikka masala, vegetable korma, onion pakoda, vegetable biryani, crab rangoon, chipa guazu, lamb, rice, chips and salsa, cheese and crackers.

Beneath a canopy of green and white balloons in the hallway outside the auditorium – a nod, students said, to St. Patrick’s Day – the Brazilians gave samba lessons to willing pupils. The Irish jig would have to wait for another time.

The eight International Student Ambassadors have responsibility for planning and carrying out the event, with the help of all the International Student Affairs community. Student Ambassadors are selected through an application and interview process and awarded some scholarship funds. Their main task is to assist the newer students in making the transition from home to Kansas City and UMKC.

Patricia Sebastian, International Student Ambassador from India, loves the coming together of global influences and UMKC’s encouragement of students to be themselves.

“There is unity in diversity at UMKC,” Patricia said. Are you listening, world?

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