UCO’s International Festival Opens Free to Community
For the first time, the annual International Festival, hosted by the University of Central Oklahoma’s International Student Council, will be free to both community members and students in an effort increase cultural awareness in the Edmond community.
“We decided to make the International Festival free this year so we could attract and open the festival to more people,” said ISC President Amanda Goh. “This way, we can reach people who want to learn more about international cultures, and who doesn’t love a free festival to go to on a weekend?”
The event, which is one of the largest international cultural events in the state, previously cost community members $5 to attend. The event features food, cultural performances and other activities from the 14 country associations that are active on campus.
More than 16 booths will be present at the event, representing diverse cultures such as Japan, Iran, Vietnam, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Africa and Latin America. For the first time, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Student Association will also be in attendance, as well as Oklahoma Christian University.
“UCO is doing something that the city of Edmond does not even offer,” said Minbo Sim, president of UCO’s Korean Student Association. “Even though there are 14 different country associations, I always realize we are becoming one body as we prepare [for] the event.”
Cultural events will include musical performances and displays of cultural significant activities, such as a dance celebrating Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia from the Malaysian Student Association and a chopstick ball game from the Vietnamese Student Association.
As part of the festival, each booth will also be judged on their decorations, performance and food. Judges will consist of faculty and staff from across UCO’s colleges, although a people’s choice award is also given out as part of the judging.
“If you’re the winner, that’s good for your country association because you can get more funding as an association if you develop well and project for the next semesters,” said Ligia Espinoza, ISC’s graphic designer and festival committee member. “That counts a lot in the ISC.”
Each booth is sponsored by the ISC with $900 for the event, with the entirety of the festival costing approximately $20,000. With a budget of around $50,000 for the academic year, Goh said that the event is the single biggest expense faced by the ISC each year.
Recently, ISC has petitioned the UCO Student Association for additional funding to help support events such as the International Festival and those put on by country associations. With 14 country associations relying on them for funding, Goh said the financial situation within the ISC is significantly different compared to other organizations on campus.
“Costing as much as it does, the International Festival takes the majority of our funding while we still have so many events left to plan, such as our international pageant, graduation celebrations and other major events,” Goh said. “So, yeah, we need more money.”
Support has also come from the Edmond community, with Mayor Charles Lamb donating $1,500 to the event. With Edmond’s vision statement including a commitment to diversity and innovation, Lamb said working with events such as the International Festival is the perfect way to add a global perspective.
“The UCO international student population and the festival provides a wonderful opportunity for cultural interaction with the Edmond population on a regular basis, thus further advancing Edmond’s understanding of the larger world outside of Oklahoma,” Lamb said.
Each year the event attracts around 2,000 attendees, including UCO students and community members.
With the interaction between ISC and the UCO Conservative Instagram account over the huge variety of global cultural events on campus being racist for not including a dedicated Caucasian celebration, Goh said the event comes at a great time to educate the community on the value of diversity.
“The fact that people are even willing to come means they’re open to learning about different cultures that are completely different from theirs, and I think for that it is really cool that we are able to share what we have at UCO,” Goh said.
The event, a component of the Office of Global Affairs community outreach programs, is as much a celebration of culture as it is an educational opportunity, according to Jared Scism, assistant director of the International House and Programming.
Other events include the Community Responding to International Students Program, the Global Leadership Ambassador Program and the Broncho Buddies Program, all of which Scism also oversees and are highly active within the Edmond community.
“I am very proud and honored I get to lead this event every year that serves as a tool to help others in our state to be aware of the diversity represented here,” Scism said. “The festival also helps others become more globally and culturally aware of things in person rather than perceptions they might form from the media.”
Taking place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 17, the 43rd Annual International Festival will be held at Edmond’s Festival Market Place.