International Fair brings new perspectives to UW campus
Belly dancers shimmied and shook. The steady beats of African music floated through the air. Shirtless males swayed back and forth as they practiced the Afro-Brazilian dance of capoiera. Where would one find such an exotic setting, Timbuktu, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo?
Actually, students found this International Fair waiting for them as the passed through Library Mall on Friday afternoon.
Sponsored by AIESEC, a French acronym that stands for the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences, the fair featured more than 30 student groups ranging from the UW-Belly Dancing Club to the Model UN to the African Student Association.
According to AIESEC president Katie Hayes, the international exchange program allows UW students to intern in countries around the world while also offering internships to foreign exchange students living in Madison.
"One of the main things we're trying to do on campus is to spread cultural understanding from all the different countries in the world," Hayes said.
As the fair began, however, few students showed interest in the colorful booths surrounding the Library Mall fountain. "I was just passing through on my way home," said Karly Tjadem, a UW sophomore.
Like Tjadem, most students cut through the mall not sparing any time to learn about cultural understanding. For much of the afternoon, the organizations outnumbered curious students. One Wisconsin senior, who asked not to be named, called the fair, "a bunch of hippie nonsense."
Nevertheless, others saw the fair as a learning experience. "It helps bring people to other places," said a UW student named Bunny, who declined to give her last name. "It helps expand horizons."
Wisconsin senior Mike Williams spent a semester studying in Cairo and praised the exchange programs. "It's just a mind-blowing experience," he said.
Although many of the organizations stressed the differences between America and the other nations of the world, Williams focused on the similarities.
"Life over there really isn't that different from our lives that we experience," Williams said. "Guys are chasing girls. Everyone wants to get a family."
Williams also described his first night at a Cairo bar where he and his new Egyptian friends smoked shisha, a type of molasses and tobacco mixture, into the hours of the early morning.
The International Fair may have helped some students appreciate the great diversity between the different cultures of the world, but it also showcased how all people share some common ground.
After all, UW students might not smoke shisha, but they are certainly familiar with early mornings at the bars.
Labels: AIESEC Madison