Cultural fair shows international diversity at USM


As a part of International Diversity and Education Week (IDEW) Nov. 14 – 18, The International Center hosted the annual Cultural Fair 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Thad Cochran Center Atrium where numerous international students at Southern Miss enjoined students and faculty on campus to share their cultures.

Sponsored by the English Language Institute and International Student and Scholar Services, IDEW focuses on sharing and embracing different cultures and diversity on campus.

Tablings displaying tri-fold boards with information on each country’s culture and background filled the Thad Cochran Center Atrium.

Students on their way to lunch in the Fresh Food Company, going to the bookstore or just passing through had an opportunity to learn the intricacies of other countries that international students eagerly shared.

Ann Morris, Director of Southern Miss’ English Language Institute, said the event showcasing different cultures is a wonderful aspect of IDEW.

“We have 74 different countries represented in the international student population here at USM,” she said. “Seventy-four different countries. The other USM students need to know about that. This is a great time to familiarize ourselves with different cultures and countries that are here among us. These events help us to build bridges of friendship and peace and cooperation and we get to find out about other people’s lives and cultures. This is a great opportunity.”

Morris said 14 countries are represented in the English Language Institute population this eight-week term.

“American students are very limited in their perspective on the world,” Morris said. “This helps to raise our horizons, and to tell others that there are other people who are living very much like us in other countries around the world and it helps to educate us about how people really live in other countries.”

Featured countries at the event were Vietnam, Venezuela, Thailand, Honduras, Cuba, China, India, Colombia, Saudi Arabia and Peru.

“We thought to share the culture of India to everybody here,” said computer science student Mythili Vala. “India is a land of multiple diverse cultures, traditions, religions and languages, and it’s beautiful.”

Junior paralegal studies major Alexis Lee is a member of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and represented the association and the Vietnamese culture at the fair.

“I really just wanted to come out and promote Vietnam more and USM VSA to bring them out to the Hattiesburg community and to the Vietnamese community overall in Hattiesburg just so people know there are students who really are passionate about our culture, not just to cater to Vietnamese students, but also to students who are interested in the culture,” Lee said. “People in the culture are very open-minded and down-to-earth.”

Morris said there has been a significant social change regarding international students in the past 15 years, as more of them have come to the university.

“Most people don’t realize for example that we have about a hundred students from Nepal this semester,” she said. “Who knew? We have an opportunity to get to know those people and learn about their culture. We only know Nepal because of the earthquake on the news. This is our chance to build personal friendships and personal relationships to put a face on that country and I know that the cultural mix of our student body is changing rapidly. So, we look forward to having more countries represented and more internationals coming in the future.”