Students showcase unique cultures


Richard Martinez/Iowa State Daily

Apoorva Acharya, left, gives Elisa Cardenas a Henna tattoo customary in India at the International Friendship Fair on April 18 in the Memorial Union. The fair included volunteers from various geographic backgrounds who presented their culture in fun and educational way.

Jaki Cavins

From flute performances and dances to vibrant outfits and talk shows, international students at Iowa State are given the chance to showcase their unique cultures and traditions at the International Friendship Fair, which will take place Friday at the Ames Public Library.

“The international students and spouses love showing off their culture,” said Angela Merrick, executive director of YWCA Ames-ISU. Some of them will wear their native attire and some will show a cultural dance. It makes them happy to bring that culture, a part of their home, here.”

A total of 4,041 international students enrolled at Iowa State in the fall of 2015, filling the campus with individuals from more than 100 different foreign countries each with their own unique heritage, according to the ISU website

Booths with information about the countries of the different international students as well as performances will be offered at the event.

The fair goes along with the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women and strengthen communities by embracing all nationalities and educating people in order to eliminate stereotypes.

About five fairs take place each semester, and the location varies each time. While it will be at the Ames Public Library this year, it has previously taken place at the Memorial Union and oftentimes at schools within the community.

Since the program has grown during the past 10 years, the YWCA has had the opportunity to bring the event to more middle and elementary schools across Iowa. This is important for the mission of YWCA in bringing cultural awareness, appreciation and understanding to young children, especially because it helps eliminate racism.

“We are able to go to schools all over Iowa,” said Swatie Bansal, global outreach coordinator at YWCA Ames-ISU. “It is important to give children a foundation of global integration.”

She said the event is meant to be a fun and educational experience overall. The people who attend, including the students who participate in it, have had great experiences with the fair. Bansal said most of the international students who participate beg to return and showcase at the next one.

“There are students from so many different countries, some small ones even that people may not have heard of,” Swatie said. “The fair gives people a chance to visualize what it is like in these countries. It is an opportunity to make great friends.”

In hopes to bring together the entire community in embracing other cultures, the International Friendship Fair is meant for everyone from young children and college students to the elderly.

“We’ve really reached different people in the community,” Merrick said. “It educates people in diversity. It’s so important to educate children [because] it’s the easiest way to eliminate racism. I think the elderly at Heartlands Senior Services love learning about different cultures as well. it educates the community from 3 years old to 100.”