Students to showcase international cultures at Sept. 15 event

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The ground floor of Deike Building will be transformed into a showcase of cultures from around the world at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, as the second annual International Culture Night gets under way. Hosted by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ (EMS) Ryan Family Student Center and organized by EMS students, the free event offers opportunities for the public to sample a variety of international foods, see performances, and learn about different cultures represented by student organizations on campus.

students sitting on brick wall

The planning committee for International Culture Night includes (L-R): Zachary Czuprynski, Naji Rizig, Muhamad Jauhar Syukri, Ali Aldhamen, Hassan Naroo, Aziz Abdelaal, and Zongjun Li.

Image: Sylvia Deng / Penn State

More than 12 student organizations — representing cultures from around the world, including Europe, the Middle East and Asia — will either perform a culturally meaningful song or dance, or host an informational table highlighting unique games, food and activities from their respective culture.

Zongjun Li, a geography major from Guangzhou, China, is particularly excited to highlight different tea ceremonies throughout the world — something he does on a regular basis as the executive director of Penn State's Tea Institute.

Li's involvement in the Tea Institute not only enhanced his extracurricular experience at Penn State, but it is also enhancing his education. Studying the geographic information systems (GIS) option of geography, Li is now applying his GIS expertise to investigate why tea plantation area in Taiwan has been declining.

"One of the goals of Penn State is to build the university as a globalized and internationalized community, and both the Tea Institute and International Culture Night align with this goal," said Li.

The main goal of International Cultures Night is to provide a platform for the public to learn about numerous cultures, and this is what drove Muhamad Jauhar Syukri to get involved in planning this year's event.

"The students representing their organizations at International Culture Night come from all over the world and are now Penn State students," said Syukri, an environmental systems engineering student from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. "These people came all the way here, so you don’t have to go all over the world to learn about their culture."

Syukri, like Li, also helped plan the 2015 International Culture Night and said that the experience of planning an event and being able to connect with people from many different cultures helped him see how valuable cross-cultural interactions can be.

Similarly, Aziz Abdelaal, a petroleum and natural gas engineering student from Cairo, Egypt, benefitted personally and professionally from the experience of planning the 2015 event. As a result, he is helping to plan this year's event, too.

Abdelaal said the planning experience pushed him out of his comfort zone and helped him be more engaged on campus. After last year's international culture night, he joined two clubs and became an international student orientation leader with Penn State Global Programs. He also worked up his courage to attend Penn State's Career Fair, a decision that ultimately led to him landing an internship in the summer of 2016 in his hometown of Cairo, Egypt, with Apache Corporation, a petroleum and natural gas production company.

"Without having planned the International Culture Night last year, I wouldn’t have thought to apply for my orientation leader position or my internship," he said. "Planning this event has helped becoming more outgoing, and I'm very grateful for the experience."

Whether finding personal or professional benefits to planning this year's event, all students planning the event agree on one thing: all visitors to the 2016 event will be able to broaden their perspective in a span of just a few hours.

"Last year, the clubs and organizations on campus did a wonderful job in exposing the culture and things that symbolize their way of living, and we are excited to include more organizations in this year's event," said Abdelaal.

The 2016 International Culture Night will take place rom 5:45 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, on the ground floor of Deike Building on Penn State's University Park campus. 

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Last Updated September 19, 2016