A bazaar filled with culture

Cultural groups come together to celebrate diversity at UB

This year, the Intercultural Diversity Center (IDC) decided to place a major focus on unity between cultural groups at UB. "Let's celebrate together," was the tagline of this year's cultural bazaar in the Student Union.

Seventeen percent of UB's student population is made up of international students, according to UB's admissions website.

Fifteen different clubs and organizations set up booths to represent their culture during the Nov. 6 event. Originally, the bazaar consisted of four groups: the Latino, LGBTQ, Native American and African communities. IDC determined that number, however, limited other groups from presenting their ideals and spreading their passion across campus, and added groups such as the American Sign Language Club, Japanese Student Association and the UB Step Troupe.

Ethiopian food, Asian-Indian earrings and Chinese dragons filled the SU in an attempt to embrace the individuality yet togetherness of every student at UB.

Mitchell Lo, a freshman business major, and Dan Pu, a junior business major, sat at a table next to the Japanese Student Association with fried wontons and a Chinese dragonhead. The two said they wanted to spread the word about International Fiesta, a dance competition between all of the international clubs in February.

Van Anh Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), came to the United States after experiencing a very different educational structure in Russia. She was the only Asian student in a school of 800 people and never knew what it was like to be in a diverse environment.

UB changed that for her. She came to the States as a very shy student, but UB has helped her work out of her comfort zone.

Becoming president of VSA has made Nguyen more sociable and open-minded, giving her the chance to make friends and develop leadership skills, she said. Nguyen believes the multi-cultural atmosphere of the university has shaped her personality.

"I developed myself as a leader, and this role has taught me to see the bigger picture in every situation and has given me an opportunity to become a person I always wanted to be: Strong, responsible, diplomatic and prudent," Nguyen said.

Nguyen said VSA's mission is to bring attention to the unique Vietnamese traditions and customs at UB. The members' goal is to give students the opportunity to learn about the exciting aspects of the culture through meetings, social gatherings and food and dance workshops, she said.

The group participates in community service events and is currently working on a fundraiser to raise money to help areas in Vietnam that were affected by natural disasters.

IDC welcomed representatives from different organizations, along with campus departments, to showcase what they felt was their identity. The West Side Bazaar was one of these organizations.

Lonisa Sledge and Ben Bissell represented the non-profit organization, which helps up to 20 different individuals start their own business. Refugees and immigrants from other countries make up the majority of the people who receive assistance. West Side Bazaar provides a full kitchen and food for these refugees - the representatives came to UB to promote some of its vendors. They sold Ethiopian food and jewelry from the West Side Bazaar store, which is run by a third generation Chinese-Indian.

Another table at the bazaar gave students the chance to take a picture holding a sign saying, "I am unique because..."

Much like the "No Hate" campaign, the pictures of the students will be put together and hung up inside the IDC office to represent the uniqueness of UB culture. Other activities included a photo booth, friendship bracelet making station, trivia games and advocacy writing - students could write letters regarding something they're passionate about.

Patrick Crosby, student-programming coordinator for IDC, said diversity has a large impact on every student, teaching them more about others' traditions, such as their morals and how they function in a big university.

As an attempt to promote awareness of the different cultures around campus, Crosby and other IDC members create workshops and programs to partner with the leadership office and academies to promote individuality, he said.

"Diversity is something we don't think about on a daily basis, but we are affected by it every day," Crosby said.

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