Homecoming International Celebration mixes worldly and new traditions

Madison Patterson

Impromptu dancing, traditional foods and colorful displays filled the Student Center Ballroom on Friday night during Kent State’s fourth annual International Homecoming Celebration.

Over 1,000 people attended the event, which started at 7 p.m. and lasted until 10 p.m. After signing in, attendees were given “passports,” which could be stamped at any of the 33 countries’ stations and eventually redeemed for free food.

Stations showed the culture of each country in many different forms. China listed fun facts and zodiac signs, Ghana laid out beads and fabric swatches and Japan provided origami instructions and paper.

“International Homecoming is a way for international students to familiarize themselves with American tradition, while also expressing their own cultural identities,” said Eron Memaj, the founder of the event and director of international student affairs.

Once an international student himself, Memaj is especially passionate about fostering a community of cultural support for students who aren’t familiar with American culture.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “But it’s one of those experiences that you see rewards from.”

The night included many types of performances, including songs and dances most of which infused modernity and tradition. A dance representing a Chinese minority group — the Uyghurs — incorporated beatboxing into an otherwise classic routine.

Khalil Thompson, a sophomore digital media production major, attended the event because “nothing good was on TV,” but was pleasantly surprised by the mood of the festival.

“It’s not for politics; it’s for unity,” he said.

Thompson said the festival was a learning experience that helped him understand the diversity of cultures at Kent State.

“I didn’t know to what extent (Kent State) had an international community,” he said.

This is the first year Zahraa Ali, a freshman English as a second language major, has participated in the festival, and she represented Kuwait.

Not many people in Kent know anything about Kuwait, she said, and that’s why she decided to set up the station this year. Her display had general information about Kuwait along with props and a Polaroid camera for travelers to pose with.

“A small kid told me this was the best table,” she said. “We may be a small country, but there are big things over there.”

Near the end of the night, students and faculty from all over the world joined hands and danced in circles on the stage while a small child waved a Gaza flag in the middle. 

As the last attendees trickled out of the ballroom, the remaining dancers stepped in unison to the “Cupid Shuffle.”

Madison Patterson is the International Students and Issues reporter. Contact her at [email protected]