Global Festival Invites Community to Travel the World In One Afternoon

Tuesday, November 5, 2019, 1:30 pm
By: 
Sarah Spohn

There will be several dance studio workshops at Sunday’s Global Festival so that attendees have an opportunity to learn some new steps. (Photos courtesy of Michigan State University)

Traveling the world can be costly, and take years, but Michigan State University's annual Global Festival can make it happen in one afternoon … for free. Global Festival 2019 takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the MSU Union, just south of Grand River Avenue at Abbot Road.

The event features a world gift shop, international exhibits, live performances, children’s activities, workshops, a fashion show, and more. The event is sponsored by The Office for International Students and Scholars, MOSAIC (The Multicultural Unity Center), MSU Federal Credit Union, Universities Activities Board, MSU Union and Community Volunteers for International Programs.

Joy Shantz, community outreach coordinator at the Office for International Students and Scholars, spoke about the history of the long-running event. A few years ago, she searched in the MSU Archives and found photographs from a similar event, called the International Fair.

“There were pictures from about 1942, and they were having a similar event — obviously on a smaller scale, as there were less international students then,” Shantz said. “But it’s kind of cool to think that we’re still doing something that’s part of this 80-year legacy of celebrating the cultures represented on campus.”

The Global Festival mission is to provide a stage for international students to share stories, artifacts, traditions, fashion, art, and live performances from their home countries.

“We have about 25 different countries represented in these exhibit tables, and they’re usually interactive,” Shantz said. “You can go right to the booth and write your name in a different language, try a game, or even try on clothing from that country.”

Live performances will take place throughout the event, showcasing music, dance, and martial arts.

“There’s a gift shop where items are donated from international students, and from people on campus who travel the world often,” Shantz said. “It’s kind of set up like a garage sale-style, so you can just find different items from all over the world, and they’re very low prices. Then all of the proceeds benefit scholarships for international students at MSU.”

The event typically draws more than 2,000 attendees, according to Shantz, and is a great opportunity for the general public to visit campus. For some, it might be the first time their children have met someone from that area of the world, heard global music, or have seen traditional clothing.

The children’s activity room includes colorful global festival passports. Participants can get their passports stamped at each booth, and have a collection of all the different countries they visited during the event.

Global Festival features a world gift shop, international exhibits, live performances, children’s activities, workshops, a fashion show, and more.

“It’s educational, but it’s also really fun,” Shantz said. “It’s kind of busy, and colorful and loud, and it’s just a cool atmosphere of lots of different people coming together in one space. The goal is to expose people to something different, but also to help educate the community about who our international students are.”

The event, while successful, sometimes still slips under the community radar.

“I think people don’t always realize it’s something that’s open to the public,” Shantz said. “We want people to come into campus, there’s free parking because it’s on a Sunday. I just want people to know they’re welcome. Part of building a diverse community is learning about each other, so I think this is a great opportunity to do that.”

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