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The parade of flags ends at Howard Park as people gather to listen to opening speeches for the International Street Fair on April 8, 2023, in Athens, Ohio.

International Week to celebrate representation, connection

International Week at Ohio University will bring a celebration of global culture to Athens. 

“We have to celebrate diversity on our campus, which is really beautiful,” said Tigistu Beyene, president of the International Student Union and a PhD student.

Beyene said there are four goals of International Week: representation, promotion, connection and celebration. The 2024 theme is “connecting hearts across borders.”

“All events will promote this global understanding and cultural exchanges,” Beyene said. 

International Week will kick off Monday, April 1 as the International Student Union, or ISU, raises over one hundred flags on College Green.

“We put flags from all over the world that are represented here,” said Collins Ketere, the International Student Union graduate assistant.

Ketere predicts a total of 113 flags, all representative of international Bobcats’ home countries.

Abdullah Khan, a PhD student, is the president of the Muslim Student Association and the Bangladeshi Students Association, said the flag event is a highlight of International Week.

“It makes you really proud to be a part of this community and it really makes you feel a bit more at home every year this event is held,” Khan said. 

After the flags are displayed, ISU will begin serving international snacks, coffee and tea at 11 a.m.

Tuesday, April 2, ISU will host an international ice cream social in Baker University Ballroom from noon to 1:30 p.m. Then, an Iftar event will be held in the Ballroom from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Iftar marks the evening meal that Muslims consume at sunset to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. According to the ISU website, it “marks the daily termination of the hardships of fasting from dawn to sunset.”

“We're in the middle of Ramadan, and we want to share kind of the joy of breaking your fast at the end of the day, and also the experience of Ramadan,” Khan said.

Iftar registration is free and open to all of the Ohio University community. Khan explained the Iftar event is an opportunity to understand Ramadan, hopefully partaking in a day of fasting and enjoying a full, Turkish meal. 

“Whatever food they (restaurants) are cooking, it's okay, but not nearly as good as whatever we get at home,” Khan said.

Wednesday, April 3, ISU will host an international tea tasting in Baker 240 and 242 from 2-4 p.m. Then, at 7 p.m., the Global Arts Fest will bring an international fashion show to Baker Theater in a celebration of global inclusion and diversity. 

Thursday, April 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Front Room Coffeehouse there will be a world languages showcase. The event will feature languages taught at OU and spoken by global Bobcats. 

The 12th World Music and Dance Concert, part of the fourth Global Arts Festival, will take place from 7:30-9 p.m. at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium on Friday, April 5.

Saturday, April 6, the annual International Street Fair will take place at Howard Hall Park between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The fair is one of the most highly anticipated events of International Week.

Mayor Steve Patterson and OU President Lori Gonzalez will deliver a speech at the beginning of the fair. A DJ will be playing music from around the world for six hours while performers take the stage. 

Different student organizations and community members will participate in the street fair as vendors selling food and cultural products and even displaying cultural traditions.

Srijana Pandey, the president of the Nepalese Student Association and a PhD student, said the street fair allows her and other Nepalese students to represent Nepal.

“That time when we display some cultural items there and we get together, we feel like we are somehow back home,” Pandey said.

Pandey said the Nepalese Student Association will be serving momo, a dumpling-like Nepalese dish.

Ketere said the street fair is an opportunity to learn more about different global cultures and taste traditional foods from all over the world.

“Because of the cultural exchange, bridging the borders, vision and mission for the street fair, I would like the public – both our students and the community – to expect international food from all over the world,” Ketere said. 

After intense preparation for the week, Ketere, Pandey, Khan and Beyene all welcome students to come and enjoy International Week events with an open heart and celebration in mind.

“The biggest point for me is people get to come together,” Khan said. “Whether it's a cup of tea, whether it's just some ice cream or anything else, the fact that people get to come together and not just enjoy but share the experiences.”

More information about International Week Events can be found here. 


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