Saudi Arabian National Day
On 26th September 2012, Saudi Arabian students at Western Kentucky University celebrated the Saudi Arabia national day which actually falls on the 23rd of September. Of the nearly 85,000 Saudi Arabian students in the US, WKU houses about 300 . The students wished to share this important occasion with their peers and celebrated it between 1pm to 5pm by serving traditional Arabian food and dancing.
National marks the foundation of Saudi Arabia by King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud, a day that is a matter of pride for its citizens. Being the world’s largest producer of oil, Saudi Arabia has grown to become one of the fastest developing countries and economies in the world and, as such, has a large number of nationals residing in foreign countries. Students for a major chunk of this segment of the society and hence, it is considered necessary that awareness about the Saudi Arabian culture be spread where they live.
In Saudi Arabia itself, however, the reigning King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud cancelled several major celebratory events in order to show the country’s support for the Syrian people. Never the less, nationals around the world did mark the day with great zeal. Students in universities around the US marked the day in a manner similar to that of the WKU Saudi Arabian Club, by playing and singing the national anthem, having Arabic food and coffee and dancing the traditional Saudi Arabian dance. I believe that this is a classic example of how people can live in a globalized world and still retain the key elements of their own culture. This is what makes our world such a culturally colorful place!
WKU celebrated the International Reach Week between 24th September and 29th September, 2012. Aimed at celebrating cultural diversity, the weeklong festival had something to offer to everyone, students as well as members of the community. The event kicked off on the 24th with the African Folk Art & Kentuckians Travel Art Exhibit and the WKU Confucius Institute Tour which were open to the general public. On the 25th, the Re-entry Workshop for International Students and Scholars, the Peace Corp General Information Session were launched for WKU students, while Jerry Daday presented “The causes and aftermath of Bosnian War and Genocide of 1992-1995’ to the public. The Study Abroad Fair for students was launched on the 26th along with a presentation by Diana Howards on ‘Programming for International Students’ and the screening of the Chinese film ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ for the public. On the 27th, the WKU History Department showed a short film followed by panel discussion on immigration in the US while Brian Whalen presented ‘What does it mean that I have studied abroad’ to the public. The Chinese film ‘Together’ was showed to the public on the 28th. The festival closed on the 29th with the Bowling Green International Festival. This was the only paid event of the festival .
The International Reach week epitomizes the growing need for cultural awareness and acceptance in a society where individuals increasingly have to interact with people from different countries and cultural backgrounds on a daily basis. The festival’s events covered a vast range of topics, especially from key geographies such as China, Africa and the Middle East. As most of these events were open to the public and provided free entrance, it was genuinely able to reach as many people as possible, which was a crucial factor to its success. I believe that the festival was a great step towards understanding cultural diversity and will go a long way in building peace and understanding within the citizens and residents of Kentucky.
In October, 2011, WKU hosted the Zumba for a Cure initiative. The event was aimed at raising money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation that works towards breast cancer research and awareness. The program offered three Zumba sessions from 5pm to 8pm. The sessions were directed by Danisha wood and Stephanie McElroy of BAC, and Jacquelyn Cline from Preston Center. Entry to the event was free, although the organizers did request participants to donate generously towards this noble cause. Overall, 113 participants consisting of faculty, students and staff of WKU as well as community members attended the event. Several of the participants were breast cancer survivors. As a result of this effort, $200 was raised and donated to the foundation . In addition, every participant received educational material and ribbons provided by the foundation.
Dance forms a key element of almost every culture. Salsa is a Latin dance form that have gained tremendous popularity in the international arena. Inspired by this dance form, Zumba is an aerobic style integrates exercising with dancing to make working out much more fun. Associating a fun, popular activity with a fund raising event was a great idea. Not only did the event draw a good number of participants, but also achieved the dual target of raising awareness as well as money! Cancer survivors participating in such a vigorous activity sent out a strobg message that there is, after all, life after cancer.
WKU Topper Café
As the Downing University Center of the WKU undergoes a large scale renovation, students have been provided with a temporary dining facility in the form of Topper Café. The construction of the temporary dining hall started on 16th April 2012 and was opened to students by August . It is now the home of the Fresh Food Company or FFC which provides an all-you-can-eat facility to diners. The Café serves a range of cuisine that includes comfortable home-style food, fresh fruits and salads, pizza, deli and full vegetarian dishes. Located on the South Lawn, the Topper Café is open every day from 7am to 8pm . The Topper Café is expected to transition from the FFC to the DUC Food Court soon after the May 2013 commencement. After serving students throughout the 2013-2014 school year, the café will be dismantled in the summer of 2014.
The food court at WKU is like a melting pot of cultures as students, local as well as international, converge there several times a day to dine and interact with each other. As the setting and ambience is quite informal, this allows to casually converse with peers from various backgrounds. Food forms an important part of any culture and students often get to taste dishes from other countries. Whether it be the Indian curry, the Chinese Dim Sums, or Arabic kebabs, food tends to bring out the best in everyone. Although the Topper Café is only a recent addition to the WKU facility and a temporary arrangement, it still holds great cultural value to WKU students.
Henna tattoos are an Eastern method of creative temporary designs on the skin using a herbal paste that leaves a red color. Henna, also known as Mehendi in the Indian sub-continent, is a predominantly Arabian art. Traditionally, leaves of the henna plant were hand-ground to a fine paste and directly applied to a person’s hands, feet and even hair! Today, however, commercial henna powder can be mixed with water or other ingredients to forma paste which is then filled into a polythene or plastic cone. These cones are used to apply intricate designs. The paste is allowed to dry and eventually falls off on its own, leaving a light orange or red color on the skin. Within a day, however, the color darkens and attained a deeper shade. The tattoo eventually fades over a time of 10-15 days after which you can get a new one made! Henna designs vary geographically, with the main styles being Arabic, Sudanese, Moroccan, Indian and Indonesian. However, as the art has gained popularity, contemporary styles have emerged and it is also used to make classic American or tribal tattoos.
At WKU, henna tattoos have been extensive used at events such as homecoming parties and fund raisers. Students from Arabia, Africa and the Indian sub-continent have actively participated in such events, applying henna tattoos to participants and visitors. I believe the popularity of this art is evidence of the fact that beauty truly knows no boundaries. An art that is specific to the Eastern culture has been accepted with open arms by the Western world. At the end of the day, such arts bind cultures together and promote acceptance and tolerance.
Englehart, Jerry. WKU hosts first Zumba for a Cure. 14 October 2011. 3 December 2012
WBKO. WKU Students Celebrate National Saudi Arabia Day. 26 September 2012. 3 December 2012
WKU Catering. The Fresh Food Company. 3 December 2012
WKU Herald. Summer construction projects underway at WKU. 22 June 2012. 3 December 2012
WKU. International Reach Week – Student Calendar of Events (Featured Events). 3 December 2012