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International Festival Takes Over Vaughn Courtyard

International festivities, flags and flavorful food will soon fill UT’s Vaughn Courtyard as the International Programs Office will host the third Annual International Festival March 16 from 1 to 6 p.m. More than 30 country displays are expected to decorate the plaza, which will exhibit international cuisine, native flags and dress and the latest in world music.

International festivities, flags and flavorsome food filled UT’s Vaughn Courtyard as the International Programs Office hosted the third Annual International Festival March 16, 2007 from 1 to 6 p.m.

More than 30 country displays were expected to decorate the plaza, which exhibited international cuisine, native flags and dress and the latest in world music.

The International Festival in Spring 2005 drew 500 students. Its purpose is “to enhance education through an increased understanding of the lives and experiences of people in the United States and across the world.”

Each year students from different cultures and backgrounds interact and “travel” the world making this one of the biggest and most talked about events at UT.

Coordinator Judith McDonald recalls student reactions to the event.

“The festival was the most fun event they had ever attended at UT,” she says. That’s her motivation to continue each year.

Namvuli Ongonga from Kenya remembers last year’s festival.

“Oh, it was awesome! I was proud to see Kenya in the country display. Overall, IPO did a great job with the festival,” she says.

But with an event like this, “It’s not the smoothest journey,” said McDonald.

“It’s difficult getting the necessary help from students, especially to find ones who are dedicated and have the enthusiasm.”

But a few volunteers committed and put their masterminds to work to prepare for the festival.

With the dedication of these volunteers and Brandon Chong, Assistant Director of Vaughn Center and Student Services, International Festival 2007 is expected to go off with a bang.

Exotic belly dancers, professional Cuban dancers and agile Chinese acrobats will awe the students with interactive performances.

Even international students will demonstrate their native dances from India, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and more. Ongonga looks forward to her native dance.

“Oh yea, I can’t wait to see the Kenyan dance. I’m not officially in it, but I know once the African rhythm hits me, I’ll be breaking it down,” she says with a bright smile on her face.

McDonald also loves the student performances.

“The student dances are my favorite because I know they put their hearts and soul in it.”

Throughout this cultural affair, students can receive up to 15 donated prizes from businesses in the Tampa Bay area and the three best country displays will win gift certificates to the International Mall.

As the students travel from country to country, if they get their passports stamped, they could win a raffle for a scholarship to a travel/study abroad program.

International Festival 2007 will likely be the talk of UT for the next two weeks as students prepare to shine with pride showing off their country’s flags and rich culture.

Until then, Judith McDonald and her dedicated students will put the final events together to celebrate an international evening of culture.

“I’m very excited about it! I know it’s going to be good,” McDonald said.

McDonald can be reached at jmcdonald@ut.edu.

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