By Bridget Lenczewski
[email protected]

The 20th annual Festival of Cultures (FOC) will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 in the Haehn Campus Center (HCC) Fieldhouse at St. Ben’s. The event is hosted by the Intercultural and International Student Services (IISS) and co-sponsored by the St. Ben’s and St. John’s Catering and Dining Services.

Following the festival, other clubs including the Black Student Association (BSA), Hmong Americans Involving Students (HAIS), the Archipelago Association, Asia Club and the Korean-American Cultural Club (KACC) will work to host a FOC After Party. The After Party will be from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. in Alumnae Hall at the HCC.

In the past, FOC has featured traditional cultural dances, songs and spoken word. Last year, over 30 cultures were represented at the festival. Cultural booths serve samples of traditional cultural food and those students running the booth are typically dressed in clothing that is native to the culture they are representing. Last year, four percent of the CSB/SJU population were
international students, according to CSB/SJU’s Community Newsroom.

“I think students should also show up [to FOC] because being a community is an active thing that requires everyone’s participation and community is something we talk about a lot here,” IISS director Brandyn Woodard said. “Showing up for Festival of Cultures, showing up for a Fine Arts event, showing up for some athletic event, showing up to hear someone’s recital – those are how we build community so that people know that they are seen, that they are heard, that they are appreciated and that whatever gifts they have to offer are valued. On Saturday, we are going to have a whole bunch of folks who are offering a bit of themselves.”

The IISS has made a few changes to the FOC this year, hoping to encourage participation and engagement of students and community members. This year, St. Ben’s and St. John’s Senates will be helping hand out pamphlets near the entrance of FOC that will help festival-goers be more actively engaged in the festival by inspiring them to talk to the people who are organizing and staffing the booths. The student emcees will also be focused on being more engaging and interacting with audience members, including asking questions and trivia of the audience. In addition, the layout of the festival is different this year.

Students on the CSB/SJU campuses find the FOC to be a great community building event.

“I feel like personally it is a great glimpse to see the different cultures that are here on campus from students… it is important to see what is in this community and to be able to be educated a little bit more, to be able to respect and have cultural agility,” CSB sophomore Nancy Rosas Arellano said. “I am always looking forward to it every single year and it is one of those things that made me want to come to this school.”

CSB senior Marie Frances Angela Gorostiza Gonzales agrees with Arellano.

“It is definitely community building experience and a form of comradery, especially with a whole bunch of students who may or may not know each other,” Gonzales said. “During the event, there is this openness to interact and [for people] to really put forth themselves and establish a form of communication, whether it be through food, through talking to one another and even just being there.”

Planning for next year’s FOC will begin shortly after Thanksgiving Break, with the first steps being to choose a date, time and location.

Last year’s FOC had many cultural groups and their native dances, languages and foods. This year’s FOC aims to raise student participation and engagement.