Chatter, laughter, and different accents filled the air as audience members began arriving for International Education Week’s event “Stories and Food from Home.” Couches and chairs were scattered around on the UC 4th floor lounge on Nov. 18 as clusters of students began to form, high-fiving each other and introducing their friends. Presentations by undergraduate student speakers showcased Latvia, Brazil, Nepal, and China before food and drinks from each country were served.
Brazilian presenters Mariana Valentina Pinto Payares and Carla Rafaela De Loiola Coutinho both rolled their eyes and shook their heads as they stressed to the audience not to be the person who asks what language they speak. Payares spoke about an experience on campus where a student asked her if she spoke Spanish. She answered no and he followed up, asking “Are you sure?” Payares informed the audience that Portuguese is their native language.
Freshman Yabi Dereje and sophomore Mattie DeMar attended the event together and were both intrigued by the presentation on Nepal. When the speaker asked “does anyone know where [Nepal] is located?” Dereje and DeMar realized they did not know where it was located geographically, nor how small the country actually is.
“People should come to these [events],” DeMar said. “You realize how small America is.” DeMar was intrigued by the photos of different traditional clothing people wear for different cultural events in their hometown, specifically Latvia. Viktors Averjanovs, presenting on Latvia, became so enthralled with telling the audience members about his home country, specifically historical facts, that he began running out of time and had to skip through multiple slides.
“I love my country,” Averjanovs said. “I could talk about it for hours and hours and hours.”
Averjanovs worked to incorporate surprising moments into his presentation, specifically mentioning how the leader of his country is able to walk around outside with the people completely safe without any security guards. Averjanovs compared this to President Obama and how this would never happen in the United States.
Senior Jenny Yin, one of the presenters for China, enjoyed the ability to speak about her personal experiences growing up, showing the audience members pictures from when she was in high school. Prior to this event, she would only really speak about her hometown experiences when meeting new friends and looking to find common interests.
“I love talking about the coastal city,” Yin said. “I love [talking] about the seafood.”
Shelley Helgeson, committee member for International Education Week, started the event three years ago with the goals of celebrating the diversity of the international student population and giving them a platform to speak about their personal experiences. Only showing the presenters one example of a previous presentation, Helgeson’s goal is to encourage the speakers to creatively present from a more personal viewpoint, allowing the speakers creative liberty so that they can prepare from a more personal point of view. “People get to share their cultures,” Dereje said. “They get to share what their lives are like.”
After the presentations, food and drinks from the different countries were served. Audience members were encouraged to add salt to Latvian sour milk, one of the dishes served. Several different Latvian chocolates scattered the table as well as Brazilian chocolate balls. Students also had the opportunity to experience Nepali curry and Chinese seafood dumplings and rice.
The crowd had an intimate feel as students loaded their plates, and different groups formed together, telling each other what foods to try and talking about the different presentations.
“My favorite part was at the end of the event when the two girls from Brazil asked if they could put on some Brazilian music,” Helgeson said. “An impromptu dance party ensued with students from all over the world impulsively dancing and laughing. This is what it is all about.”