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UTEP promotes diversity through food

Freshman+environmental+science+major+Yeshey+Seldon+poses+in+front+of+the+Bhutan+Temple+holding+Jasha+Maru+%28Spicy+Chicken+Curry%29+sold+by+the+Bhutanese+Student+Association+at+the+International+Food+Fair+on+Monday%2C+Nov.+12.+
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UTEP promotes diversity through food

Freshman environmental science major Yeshey Seldon poses in front of the Bhutan Temple holding Jasha Maru (Spicy Chicken Curry) sold by the Bhutanese Student Association at the International Food Fair on Monday, Nov. 12.

Freshman environmental science major Yeshey Seldon poses in front of the Bhutan Temple holding Jasha Maru (Spicy Chicken Curry) sold by the Bhutanese Student Association at the International Food Fair on Monday, Nov. 12.

Gaby Velasquez

Freshman environmental science major Yeshey Seldon poses in front of the Bhutan Temple holding Jasha Maru (Spicy Chicken Curry) sold by the Bhutanese Student Association at the International Food Fair on Monday, Nov. 12.

Gaby Velasquez

Gaby Velasquez

Freshman environmental science major Yeshey Seldon poses in front of the Bhutan Temple holding Jasha Maru (Spicy Chicken Curry) sold by the Bhutanese Student Association at the International Food Fair on Monday, Nov. 12.

Valeria Olivares, Contributor

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The International Culture Festival kicked off on Monday, Nov. 12, as students came together for the International Food Fair at the Tomás Rivera Conference Center.

The event’s location was changed in the morning from Centennial Plaza to the East Wing of the Union Building due to cold temperatures.

Student organizations, such as the Indian Student Association and the Biomedical Engineering Society, boasted flavorful food made with authentic ingredients and vibrant decorations as they competed for the monetary prizes and the “big spoon” trophy that is passed on to each year’s winner.

Even though every stand offered an array of foreign delicacies, it was the Bangladeshi Students Association that took first place and won $200. They were also picked as the fan favorite by students, winning an additional $125.

“We are very excited, we put all our effort to get these prizes and to entertain everyone. We tried our best to make our food as much perfect as we can and we also did (this) with our decorations and we are so happy… We want to thank the OIP (Office of International Programs) and the Student Engagement & Leadership Center for creating this type of event so that we can participate,” said Tamanna Ferdous, a member of the Bangladeshi Students Organization.

The fair proved to be diverse and lively, as ten different booths represented various countries and prepared food for the intrigued, hungry students.

Dishes included a carrot kheer from India, which is a sweet dish made with carrots, milk, and sugar, chicken momo from Nepal, chicken-filled dumplings with Nepali spices and Kelewele from Africa, which are fried seasoned plantains. Among the menus, drinks such as Sobolo from Africa, a spicy hibiscus tea, and mango lassi from Bangladesh, a thick, sweet mango blend were also offered.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to try different types of food from different cultures,” said Mohammed Alsawad, a senior mechanical engineering major.

The room quickly filled with an intense blend of aromas, multicolored decorations and a large crowd of students trying to decide what to try. Students traveled the world by tasting delicious dishes as they learned of the many flavors, textures, and scents that are enjoyed throughout it.

“We celebrate this International Food Fair every year. These are our very own recipes. It reflects our culture, it’s Bangladeshi food, everything you see here is completely authentic Bangladeshi, even the spices we used,” said Kazi Md. Masum Billah, president of the Bangladesh Student Association.

The judges walked around the room and tasted dishes from each stand, simultaneously taking note of the way that each stand implemented their respective country’s traditions and culture into their decorations.

“I’m looking for a good variety of international food that kind of best showcases the area that they’re actually cooking from. I’m looking for presentation. I’m looking for unique ingredients that I may not necessarily taste on an everyday basis. I’m looking to see the passion and enthusiasm that the students put into their food, their presentation and to their overall organization,” said Mick Martinez, one of the judges for the event.

The International Culture Festival is meant to showcase and promote UTEP’s commitment to diversity. According to the Office of International Programs, there are 2,113 international students in UTEP.

By creating an event that encourages students to showcase their own culture and challenges other to explore one that is unfamiliar to them, students and faculty are able to expose themselves, appreciate their differences and create a respectful environment. As a university found alongside the southern border of the US that educates students from all around the world, UTEP has found a way to bring students with different backgrounds together.

“We have a lot of organizations that do come and participate and cook food based on where they’re from. It gives us a chance to really learn the different foods, the music, the clothing, everything that they bring. So I think that, on many different levels, it gives us that global awareness that we really try to instill in our students and us, as faculty and staff really, we have a responsibility to really learn as well,” said Nicole Aguilar, the director of the Student Engagement & Leadership Center.

The International Culture Festival, organized by the Student Engagement & Leadership Center, will continue until Friday, Nov. 16, and is set to include various other events, such as an art display, a film screening, study abroad info sessions and a lecture series.

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UTEP promotes diversity through food