Textiles from Paraguay with every color of the rainbow adorned tables, the aroma of sweet deserts filled the air and students sat patiently as they received the traditional art of henna on their hands. This was all a part of Kansas State’s International Spring Break Experience, an event dedicated to sharing international culture.
With spring break cut this semester, WellCAT Ambassadors transported wanderlust students to new cultures by bringing those places to the K-State Student Union. International students wore traditional clothing, served food from their home countries and shared their life experiences from places like Africa, India, Paraguay and more. It was an interactive experience for students looking to get away and broaden their horizons.
“We wanted to provide a platform where K-State students can interact with international students and engage in intercultural learning from student organizations representing different countries,” Pranav Savanur, senior in human health biology and WellCAT Ambassador, said. “We thought it would be really nice to have a study abroad exhibit so [students] can talk to people representing these countries, and possibly talk about opportunities to study abroad. We hope to showcase culture in a sense that students get to represent their own culture.”
The table representing India served gulab jamun — a round piece of golden-brown dough kneaded from milk solids and covered in a sweet syrup with a soft texture and a sweet taste. About the size of a doughnut hole in the U.S., it would be easy to get carried away enjoying this treat.
Yerba mate — a type of herbal tea — was served at the Paraguay table. Made from the yerba mate plant, the leaves are placed in a hollowed-out gourd and ground and mixed with spices.
Cold water is typically poured over it because of Paraguay’s hot climate. Mixed with milk and sugar, the drink is sipped through a metal straw called a bombilla, which has small holes in the bottom to filter out the herbs. A greenish-gray liquid filled the cup, smelling like smoke and fire but tasting like a sweet and milky hot tea.
A world map was set up on the wall where students could mark pins in places they wish to travel post-COVID. Students had the opportunity to converse and make connections with international students, also receiving information on what studying abroad could look like for them.
“I’ve seen here today people having conversations, someone said they want to visit Ghana next summer, and the person from the African station said, ‘Oh, I’m from Ghana!'” Savanur said. “They told them, ‘This is where you can go, this place is cool.’ I thought that was really impactful and cool. And now [that student] doesn’t just know they want to go to Ghana, they know somebody from Ghana, and that they can probably backpack with or stay with them.”