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International Festival lets students educate others about home countries

University of Houston-Victoria international students and International Programs Office staff members take a group photo during a celebration of nations event in the fall. UHV’s International Festival will be held April 19, allowing students from 26 countries to share their culture.

When Sree Sandhya came to the University of Houston-Victoria from Hyderabad, India, she was amazed at how welcome she felt compared with stories she’d heard from other international students who attended U.S. universities.

“From day one, I felt at home here,” said Sandhya, a computer information systems graduate student. “I was well taken care of, and UHV has been an amazing experience for me as a student and a person.”

Now, Sandhya and students from 25 other countries will have the opportunity to share elements of their cultures with the community during the UHV International Festival. The festival will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 19 in Jaguar Hall Commons, 2705 Houston Highway. The event is free and open to the public. Shuttle buses will be available to transport attendees to and from parking on the main UHV campus.

Ludmi Herath

The festival will begin with a flag ceremony featuring flags from the 26 countries represented by UHV students. Throughout the event, there will be dances and cultural displays from at least 15 countries, said Ludmi Herath, UHV International Programs director.

Students will perform a Chinese lion dance, a Hawaiian hula, an African Kuomankele dance, an Indian Bollywood dance, ballet folklorico and a belly dance. In addition, there will be cuisine from a variety of countries, including India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and South Korea. There also will be face painting and henna tattoos.

In addition to the dances and cuisine, there will be 22 booths with cultural displays. The event was organized by the UHV International Programs Office and is sponsored by the Victoria Northside Rotary Club and UHV Student Life & Services. Students from the Student Government Association, the International Students Organization, Diversity Council, Black Student Union, African Student Association and Hispanic Student Association are taking part in the event.

“Our international students are passionate, driven individuals who love to share their cultures with others,” Herath said. “This festival is going to be a wonderful experience.”

Being able to share her Nigerian culture is exciting for UHV graduate student Loveth Ohenhen. When she first came to UHV, she was amazed at the diversity of the campus, and she has enjoyed the opportunities to learn about other cultures while sharing her own.

“I fell in love with UHV before I ever actually came to campus because of the personal connection and encouragement I received from the International Programs Office,” Ohenhen said. “Now that I’ve been here for a while, I love how the international students are like an extension of our family. We’ve even created our own student organization.”

The International Festival is just one of many events the UHV International Programs Office has created. In March, the students hosted an international games night. There also is a cafe series that features a different culture at each event.

“Sharing our cultures is always an exciting experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing how many people come to the festival,” Sandhya said. “When I first shared cuisine from India, I was surprised to find out that Americans love Indian food. I hope people will make similar discoveries at the festival.”

To learn more about the International Festival, contact Herath at 361-570-4109 or herathl@uhv.edu.