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International Festival Week celebrates culture

Lisa Slomka | Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Notre Dame students don’t need to use their passports to experience foreign cultures this week, as they can soak in global traditions and customs during International Festival Week.

McKenna Pencak, assistant director for education and outreach for International Student Services and Activities (ISSA), said the Festival features a variety of cultures from around the world. The events began last Saturday and continues through this Sunday.

“Basically it’s just a week to celebrate international students and the international student community, as well as the entire Notre Dame community and everyone that has different backgrounds and cultural heritages,” she said.

Pencak said International Festival Week began as a cultural celebration and performance and is now a celebration of the University’s international community.

“We have over 900 international students from about 90 countries, and this is a week to celebrate a variety of cultural heritages as well as our multicultural students,” she said. “Also, it’s great because it’s not only ISSA, it’s a collaboration with other departments and organizations on campus. We work to make sure everyone is included and that as many countries and cultures are represented as possible.”

The week’s primary event, the International Festival, has been held for over 40 years and originally was the event’s only activity, Pencak said. The Festival, which will be held today from 6 to 8 p.m. in the LaFortune Student Center Ballroom, will feature performances from students and campus cultural organizations, as well as international desserts.

Pencak said the performances will include a Bollywood dance, a Chinese song and a Japanese tea ceremony. There also will be activity tables and a question and answer session.

The Week also features an International Children’s Festival, Pencak said.

“That is basically a children’s version of the International Festival, and it’s free, and we work with University Village, the married student housing,” she said. “We’re going to be doing international arts and crafts.”

Fischer O’Hara Grace Graduate Residences are usually active in International Festival Week because of the University’s high number of international graduate students, Pencak said.

“They are hosting a great event with [associate professor of painting and drawing] Fr. Martin Nguyen on Friday,” she said. “There’s going to be dinner and dessert and then everyone’s going to go to Holy Cross annex to tour Fr. Martin Nguyen’s [art] studio.”

Pencak said overall student participation for the International Festival Week is typically high.

“It’s really fun because it’s a way for international and national students to get together and celebrate different cultures and celebrate where they’re from,” she said. “It’s really neat to see everyone participating and talking about his or her home countries and cultures and cultural heritages.”