OCCU’s annual international potluck brings the student community together through cuisine


By Yousra Hussain
Staff Writer

Walking up to the Mary Sue Cushman room, the animated chatter of friends could be heard echoing on the evening throughout the building. The scent of spices wafted through the room, where one could feast their eyes on the myriad of dishes laid out.

From Korean barbeque to Hungarian goulash, there was something for everybody in this potluck to satiate their hunger with. The annual international potluck enriches the Sewanee community with its ability to connect people with culture, food, and friendship.

Mandy Moe Pwint Tu (C’21), the president of the Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding (OCCU). Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20).

“Food is a unifier. The international potluck is and always has been a surefire way to get students, faculty, and community members in a room together to socialize and, of course, to enjoy good food,” said Mandy Moe Pwint Tu (C’21), the president of the Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding (OCCU).

The international potluck is more than just feasting on good food, it’s a way of highlighting the diversity that exists on campus, which is sometimes overshadowed and forgotten. Tu remarked that additionally, it’s “an opportunity for our international and multicultural students to showcase their cooking skills, to enjoy a taste of home, and to share that taste of home with the Sewanee community.”  

The mingling of cultures at this event highlighted the opportunity for the Sewanee community to take a peek into the different cultures that exist and possibly learn from them even if it is just a different, intriguing way of cooking a potato.

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Not only students attended the event. Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20).

In the event, a long line of people waited for their turn to get food, overwhelmed by the plethora of options with name-cards representing countries as far as Bangladesh or Egypt. The cooks beamed as they watched their dish run out and soon even the tables ran out of seats as more people followed the inveigling scent of the food.

Szonja Szurop (C’22), one of the cooks, commented, “I feel that all the meals, including mine, were made with love and were delicious. Also, I think it was an advantage that there weren’t enough tables because you could sit down on the ground with strangers and laugh about it.”

“It makes the world look like a small village to me. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the cuisines of two different regions,” said Ashraful Haque (C’22).

It is an understatement to say the international potluck was a success; the event sparked nostalgia, enlightened people, and most importantly fed the Sewanee community with delectable goodness. It’s astounding how food can bring together people from different parts of the world to connect with each other with their stories, experience, and affection of one dish.

“It’s the easiest way to instigate cross-cultural conversation. What begins as a mere conversation about food may end up as a discussion of more important issues. At least, that’s the hope,” added Tu.