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UB hosts annual International Education Week to celebrate diversity

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When Kanishka Wanninayaka arrived from Dubai to start his first semester in the United States at UB last spring, dancing was the catalyst for his connection to other students in this foreign place.

“I’ve been dancing since I was a kid and it’s a universal language. Even if you can’t speak the language or your cultures are different, your bodies can still be in synch. That’s why I love it,” Wanninayaka, a sophomore undecided major and dance liaison for the Latin American Student Association, said.

Since 2001, UB has hosted International Education Week as a way to showcase the diversity of its campus community as well as its international programs and outreach.

According to a press release, the Institute of International Education (IIE) ranks UB in the top 20 of 2,700 accredited United States universities in international enrollment with more than 6,000 international students.

This year’s theme for the week was the “Media in Focus” and it kicked off on Monday, Nov. 16 with the a lecture from keynote speaker, Geneva Overholser, Senior Fellow at the Democracy Fund, in the Student Union Theater.

On Tuesday, students were invited to participate in an interactive photo shoot, called Dear World, to highlight diversity and everyone’s unique journey.

The Intercultural Diversity Center (IDC) held their first “World Bazaar” for the year on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Student Union Lobby.

“We hold World Bazaar once a semester because we want to make as many opportunities for students to celebrate diversity as possible,” said Michael Venturiello, student program coordinator for the IDC.

The IDC starts planning for their largest campus event in September by reaching out to Student Association clubs in the International and People of Color Councils to share their culture with the campus through tabling, food and performances.

This year, members from the Caribbean Student Association, Black Student Union, Asian American Student Union, Muslim SA, Malaysian SA and Hong Kong SA were all in attendance.

“We reach out to all of the cultural organizations and anyone can perform,” said Aisha Abdelmula, a graduate assistant for the IDC. “Even if someone wanted to perform something from a culture that may not be represented on campus, the opportunity is there.”

Wanninayaka and other members of the Latin American Student Association performed bachata, tango and salsa couples dances. LASA holds weekly Latin social dance lessons in the flag room at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday.

The Muslim SA allowed people to hear recitations in Arabic from the Qur’an.

“We loved the World Bazaar and all the people who came by and were willing to participate,” said Samiha Islam, vice president of Muslim SA.

In addition to the student organizations, the IDC also invited local immigrant owned businesses such as the Dovi & Girls African Market and the El Buen Amigo Latin American Cultural Association, both located in Elmwood.

Another vendor in the lineup was Ten Thousand Villages, which is located in Williamsville and sells fair trade crafts, housewares and other items made by artisans from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The next World Bazaar will take place on South Campus in the spring semester.

Jessica Bain is a features staff writer. Features desk can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com.


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