K-State community kicks off semester by celebrating diversity

Kansas State students participate in the International Block Party in Manhattan, Kan. on Aug. 25, 2017. (Justin Wright | The Collegian)

The International Student Block Party Friday evening brought students from a wide variety of backgrounds together to enjoy music, mini golf and food from all parts of the world.

At the block party, students tried the crunchy, savory snack tidbits common in Malaysia and nori, a seaweed snack served in Japan. Students could try on typical Kuwaiti clothing and study the flags of many nations that had previously hung in the Union. The DJ played an assortment of upbeat music with powerful baselines, each sung in a different language from the last. A henna artist traced designs on students’ hands.

“I think this event shows so much integration of culture, language and backgrounds,” Lolwa Al-Foudari, junior in architectural engineering and president of the Kuwaiti Student Organization, said. “We need such events to bring us together and to remind us that we are always here for each other.”

Multiple organizations coordinated with each other to make the event possible including International Buddies, the Union Program Council, the K-State Alumni Association, International Scholars Student Services, the International Coordinating Council and a number of other clubs.

The success of the Block Party was thanks to its sponsors going the extra mile to ensure an authentic and inclusive experience.

“An event like this provides a welcoming atmosphere for the international students,” Jessica Elmore, the K-State Alumni Association’s associate director of diversity programs, said. “I worked really hard to make sure that we had a DJ who understood how to collect different songs from all over the world, and I went all the way to Kansas City to find the stores that sold authentic snacks, desserts and drinks.

“When people come to the United States, we want to showcase that they don’t have to change,” Elmore continued.

Members of student organizations acted as cultural guides, offering suggestions to make sure the food and music was representative of everyone.

“For an international student, it’s good to be able to express their own culture,” Kazuya Ogawa, junior in mechanical engineering and president of the Japanese Students Association, said. “There are a lot of stereotypes about Japan. Here, Americans can learn about the real Japan, and we can learn about the real America.”

The fun and welcoming event conveyed the sense of family many students love about K-State.

“There is a community environment here, where there is no prejudice, there’s no difference, there’s no discrimination,” Sofiya Sabreen, senior in architecture and President of the Indian Students Association, said. “Everybody from different parts of the world are standing in the same place, trying to talk to each other, and getting to know each other. This generally doesn’t happen, which is the best part of this event.”

Respectful cultural exchange was at the heart of the event, with booths set up for multiple cultural groups to share information with students from all parts of the world.

“I hope that U.S. students know that they are always welcome at international events — international means everybody,” Sara Thurston, director of International Student and Scholar Services, said. “I hope that they’re curious and come to different events like this. This is like the dream event. When people work together, big events like this are possible.”

While the Union Program Council has held block parties before, the international aspect to this event was a fresh twist that meant a lot to K-State’s international students.

“This event makes me so happy,” Mary Abounabhan, senior in business management and president of International Buddies, said. “This is the first time I’ve seen an event like this happen. I’m originally from Lebanon but I’m also American so I’ve always had those two elements of my identity. Being able to share that with people but also bring people together is like seeing both of my identities come together.”