Why Sewanee needs events like OCCU’s Culturefest

Mandy Moe Pwint Tu (C’21), Feza Umutoni (C’22), and Yousra Hussain (C’22) perform at Culturefest. Photos by Lucy Wimmer (C’20).

By Anna Püsök
Contributing Writer

The Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding kicked off the year with Culturefest in the Quad on Sunday, September 29. 

The visitors had the opportunity to get to know different cultures and meet students from all over the world. The event organized tables representing different countries in a circle in the Quad students from different countries. In this way, guests could travel around the world. To make emphasize this feeling, visitors got passports and collected different colored stamps from each country. When people collected all the stamps, they could get prizes. 

Passports provided at Culturefest.

Yousra Hussain (C’22), one of the main organizers of the event and co-president of OCCU, explained the main goal of the Culturefest, saying, “often times when we had events involving culture, it was mostly just people observing what the culture was without really delving deeper into it. I wanted the people from minorities to really showcase what their culture was, through interactive activities.” 

She explained, “For example, they could get a henna, try on Chinese traditional clothes, and eat Spanish cheese or Vietnamese pancakes.” She continued, “I didn’t want it to be like a zoo, where the Sewanee community just watches cultures, I wanted them to experience the culture.”

I knew a couple of fun facts or stereotypes about several countries that I heard from movies or TV shows or read online, but hearing the international students talk about their culture was completely different. 

I think it is very important to get to know the people around us, especially when they are from somewhere we’ve never been to, or never heard anything about. Culturefest helped to break down the stereotypes and getting to know the people better.

Natalie Price, (C’ 23) a student who attended the event, said, “Being American myself, I feel that it is very easy to fall into a habit of stereotyping certain cultures with images and associations brought by countless movies and other forms of pop culture. [The event was] immersive and [it was an] insightful way to broaden my perspective and truly learn about other ways of life.”

She continued, “I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that the world doesn’t function in just the way you experience it.”

By asking someone what culture means to them, we can get many different responses. Some would weirdly look at us in silence, some would try to give an answer. Mandy Tu, (C’21) president of the OCCU, had a straight answer, “Living in a community, that is constantly expanding and becoming more global, especially because of international students and staff, I think it’s important to have that exposure to different cultures, especially to one where there is already a community of people from different countries and different cultures present on this campus,” she said.

She continued, “I think it’s extremely important to have an event that is focused on visibility and just a celebration presenting all the cultures on campus. Engaging with them gives you a different perspective on the world, expand your world, and make you a better person, because you become more equipped to deal with more global issues. You start asking more  questions and you are not trapped in a single story.” 

In my opinion, the importance of having a culture is to bring people together. Not only people from different cultures, but people with the same culture too. Living in a world where people mostly focus on themselves, we must appreciate the things that bring us together again.

This event gave the visitors a genuine look on different people and cultures. Celebrating different backgrounds, meeting new people, and realizing how similar we are through culture is significant and Culturefest achieved that goal.