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Botswana Keamogtese Khudu (left) and Kutlwano Mokgathi (right) dance to music being played at the International Street Fair in Athens, Ohio, on Saturday, April 6, 2019.

International Week returns to share diverse, international cultures at OU

April 4 will kick off International Week, an annual celebration that recognizes the numerous cultures of international students and their connections to domestic students at Ohio University. 

International Week began in 1969. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, International Week has not been in effect for the last two years. Now, the celebrations, which are hosted by the International Student Union at OU, will return April 4 through April 9, consisting of various activities such as a coffee on the green, an ice cream day, a tea tasting, a trivia night and an open mic night.

Eirene Binabiba, a second-year master's student studying international development studies and the marketing and PR director of ISU, said the purpose of the series of events is to bring international and domestic students together, which is something that usually cannot happen easily. 

“It's a way of bringing the international countries and your culture and everything to the doorsteps of the community because you don't have to travel to see the beautiful clothes, beautiful food, all those beautiful things about the international culture,” Binabiba said. “It's just a way of coming together and building those connections and just having fun.”

This year, the theme for International Week is Fostering Connections: Together We Can, Together We Will. This theme, Binabiba said, is especially significant due to the transition back to in-person learning and gatherings, making the celebration much more special. 

“At the time that I came to school, everything was online,” Binabiba said. “I didn't know anyone and I couldn't meet anybody. And that is really detrimental, especially for an international student who has left home. So it's really important for us to come together to build those connections and… form friendships.”

Among the list of week-long events is the International Street Fair, which will be held on April 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The colorful event hosts vendors and volunteers to celebrate among international and local students, sharing their culture through food, music and dance.

Kea Khudu, a second-year Ph.D. student studying counseling education and supervision and the vice president of ISU, said the street fair is typically ISU’s most popular event. 

“We have different kinds of organizations selling the food, showcasing that culture, we have a band as well playing, people just walk around having fun,” Khudu said.

Deependra Budhathoki, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics education is the president of ISU. Budhathoki said the various events throughout the week, including the International Street Fair, allow all OU students to connect with one another and appreciate their cultural differences.

“Domestic and international students get opportunities to know about different cultures in the world, taste food and understand diversity across the world,” Budhathoki said in an email. “Particularly for international students, it is also an opportunity to advertise their culture and community to the local people.”

Throughout the week-long celebrations, Khudu hopes it will enlighten students and provide them with a taste of a different cultural experience to increase their understanding and recognition of others. 

“You don't have to travel to experience a little bit of the culture that we offer here,” Khudu said. “Let's celebrate and bring back an event that brings international students and local students as well as the committee members outside OU together and just celebrate and have fun.”

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