Traditional food brings people together at Cultural Cafe

International students from Syria and Japan shared traditional food with local Kent State students while giving insight about their country during the last Cultural Cafe of the semester on Nov. 20.

Attendees tried bukkake udon, lentils and freekeh chicken, which are some of the presenters favorite dishes to eat at home, while learning the history of the two different countries.

Joud Roufael, a Kent State graduate working toward his Phd. in Public Health, said he doesn’t get many opportunities to talk about Syria. So when Career Exploration and Development reached out for the Cultural Cafe he wanted to highlight Syria’s culture that has seemed hidden since the Syrian War started in 2011.

“I think the Cultural Cafe starts important conversations and opens up a new way for people to ask us more questions and to feel comfortable asking those questions,” Roufael said.

Each student explained their country’s origin, religion and cultural background. Students like freshman international exchange student Abdulkader Fatouh hoped to break the misconceptions about Syria.

“It’s very devastating, actually,” Fatouh said. “Our country has so much history and has made so many contributions to early society, but people don’t focus on that because of the war.”

Fatouh highlighted the more positive aspects of the country like the music, weddings and food.

The three presenters from Japan also wanted to keep things positive and started their presentation off with a short Kahoot to test what people already knew about the country. From there, each presenter taught the group about the Japanese lifestyle.

Freshman ESL major Ai Ikeda used this time to go in depth about Japan besides the food and faith. 

“As a people, we focus on the daily life, not just the faith so we wanted to dive deeper into Japanese life,”  Ikeda said.

While the Cultural Cafe helps students learn about different countries, it also makes international students realize what they miss most about home. 

“I miss taking a really nice bath,” Ikeda said. “In Japan, there are no showers everyone just takes a bath and the first thing I’m going to do when I get back to Japan next month is take a really nice bath.”

Contact Sydney Ford at [email protected].