To my left I heard conversations in Afrikaans, to my right a child was learning about animals of New Zealand, and I was talking to a friend from India who was creating a design on my hand in henna. So many cross-cultural experiences were being shared between students, professors, children, and friends! This image, which is forever imprinted in my memory, is the reason I spent four years involved in the annual Ethnic Arts Festival. Where else could I travel around the world in a day? When else could I learn first hand from peers about their experiences in cultures different from mine?
I began helping with the festival my first year at Luther, getting involved in the preparations for decorations, food and the country fair. I was excited to see how everything would come together. Were we really going to have more than 20 countries represented in the Center for Faith and Life in one afternoon? I could not wait to see! I spent the day of my first Ethnic Arts Festival learning about schools, holidays, foods and cultures from around the world. I loved learning first hand about elementary school in China, hearing stories from visits to the fjords in Norway and learning about the history of flags from many countries. As the day continued my smile grew because the event was more wonderful than I could have imagined!
That evening as I watched performances from around the world, I marveled at the many talents, languages and traditions that were shared on stage. I went to bed that night with my mind full of new knowledge, questions and a desire to learn more about the world around me.
Fast forward four years to my final festival as the Ethnic Arts Coordinator and you would have found me still smiling! Each year as I learned more about the world around me, I continued to look forward to the Ethnic Arts Festival where cultures and nations from around the world come together. With almost 40 countries represented between home countries and countries where people had studied abroad, the festival was bound to be more fun and full of more learning than ever. The day flew by in a whirlwind of memories, shared stories, changed perspectives, emotional performances and delicious food. Ask anyone who helped set up, was involved in the planning or helped clean up and they will tell you that I could not stop smiling for days after the festival! My experiences with the festival have encouraged me to continue exploring cultures around the world. The world is our classroom!