International Fair Brings Food, Entertainment, Learning to MU Campus
By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Columnist
(HNN) -- Marshall University
kicked off International Education Week with the 38th annual
International Festival featuring a sampling of foods, flags,
culture and entertainment from South America to the Far East.
The booths at the Don Morris
Room remained jammed with visitors two hours after the official
Although reasons for participating
in and visiting the fair varied, all came open to learning
and sharing other cultures. Everyone enjoyed themselves in
a room of diversity, which tactfully raises a rhetorical question:
Why can’t we do this all over the world?
SAFE TO STUDY HERE
Soo Im Jung, a 20-year-old
English as Second Language student from South Korea came to
Huntington because “there are many forests, it is not dangerous,
it’s comfortable and there are many kind people.” Jung plans
to stay for a year, but may extend her studies if the opportunity
Likewise, Kanako Hirao, a senior
from Japan, was looking for a school in the United States.
“Someone told me Huntington was safe,” she said. Ms. Hirao
was later introduced to Marshall through Miho Egnor, wife
of Dr. Clark Egnor, executive director of the Center for International
Programs. Majoring in family and child development, Hirao
plans to return home following graduation. “But my goal is
to travel the world and save kids,” she said.
Mari Kariya, who has only been
in the U.S. for five months, feels comfortable here now. The
Japanese woman came to Huntington to teach languages at Cabell-Midland
High School and to take graduate courses at Marshall. “People
here are so friendly, easy to talk to and willing to help
me,” she said.
Wearing a long gray beard,
Victor Fet, a MU biology professor, immigrated year ago to
America from Russia looking for “freedom and success.” Although
his parents visit frequently, he has only been back to his
homeland only once since the communist dictatorship thawed.
Assessing the state of Russia now, he conjectured, “things
change [but] I’m not sure they change in a good direction.”
Fet explained that Russian people like freedom, but the “economy
doesn’t enjoy very much from this freedom.”
GENDER ROLE “SHOCK” IN MOLDAVA
At the Peace Corps booth, Nichole
Sheets, a 27-year-old Huntington native who just returned
to the Tri-State from Moldova handed out brochures. Sheets,
who writes a monthly column for the Herald-Dispatch, said
that from her first steps in the small, poor country near
Romania, people were hospitable.
“My second night in the country
I was staying in the same house with two parents, three children
and two houseguests. They prepared a wonderful meal for me.
I didn’t know any Romanian; they didn’t know any English.
I already felt welcome in their home,” Sheets said.
However, she quickly found
herself adjusting to traditional European gender roles, which
did not approve of America’s grungy styles of jeans and sweats.
“One thing Moldavians are very fashionable people. Even though
it’s the poorest country in Europe, people spend a lot of
money on what they wear and a lot of time on how they look.
I was teaching my first summer there and my host mother wouldn’t
let me out of the house if I had a wrinkled skirt on. She
said that I iron everything. I don’t even own an iron! As
Americans we had to be a little more conscious of looking
professional and dressing more nicely.”
Asked whether feminine fashion
related to gender roles, she responded, “That’s a very astute
observation. A lot of women want a career [there], but most
every woman wants a husband. They put a lot of attention on
what they wear and looking pretty in hopes that they’ll meet
a guy at the university or disco.” Although women in the small
country are marrying later, “there’s still the competition
for a good husband and an impulse when you enter your early
20s to start a family. By their standards, I’m kind of an
‘old maid’ [at 27]. Almost all of the women were dating someone
seriously or married.”
Yet, whether in Europe or America,
the women still complained about their husbands and boyfriends.
According to Sheets, “Almost all of my students were women…
[They] had to do all the cooking, cleaning and taking care
of kids. Some work outside [the home], but [their husband’s]
expect the inside to be done.”
Although she volunteered there
during the Iraq conflict, Sheets said, “I never felt like
a target. People were able to distinguish between me as an
American and America the country. There were well over 100
Peace Corps volunteers and I think they had similar reactions.
There was a lot of curiosity, but no animosity.”
AMERICANS CAME FOR….THE
As for American students and
professors visiting the fair, most cited food, learning and
harmony as reasons for attending.
“I enjoy learning about different
cultures and the food,” Leslie Woods, a senior Spanish/Elementary
Education major explained.
Doug Evans, sophomore biology major, added, “I think it’s
nice to see everyone --- the international students, the faculty,
and the staff --- together.” He complimented the organizers,
“I went last year and this year there’s a lot more food.”
Entertainment ranged from a
Japanese Concert Performance to Tanzanian dance and Latin
dances such as the Samba and Salsa.
Jorge Murillo, an MU grad student from Ecuador, agreed that
the crowd was larger than last year. Murillo brought a multi-media
presentation about his country and Espo University. He encourages
everyone to visit Ecuador which features “the most bio-diversity
in the world. You can find all kinds of species, plus the
Galapagos Islands, beaches, an accessible area of the Amazon
rain forest, and the best banana in the world.”
A group of Japanese Anime fans
--- the Anime and Manga Society --- also had a booth where
they passed out brochures explaining their upcoming meetings,
which always include a selected DVD. Although an officially
recognized MU group, it’s open to anyone who likes Anime.
Summarizing the event, Ramchandra
Akkihal, professor of finance and economics said, “Every year
the cultures come together, bring a taste of customs and dress
to Huntington.” He continued that the event continues to grow
“thanks to the fantastic work of Clark Egnor, the director.”
View pictures from Marshall's
International fair here.