Potluck celebrates world culture


Each spring at Northern Kentucky University, people from all over the world gather in the Student Union Ballroom to celebrate NKU’s international community.

The 21st Annual International Potluck Dinner and Talent Show took place Saturday, April 14 in the Student Union Ballroom. This year’s theme was “Lights, Camera, Action: Let the good times roll!”

Cellestine Kamau-Cheggeh, president of the International Student Union (ISU) and a senior chemistry major from Kenya, said the international potluck brings cultures together to promote global understanding. “And we expect that people have fun and enjoy each other’s company,” she said.

Elizabeth Chaulk, the assistant director of NKU’s Office of International Students and Scholars, said the ISU plans all aspects of the event from decorations to entertainment. “They do everything from start to finish,” Chaulk said.

The event is planned to promote an understanding of each other through sharing different cultures.

Before dinner, people had time to enjoy the world bazaar. Outside the ballroom, visitors waited to get Henna tattoos from Indian students wearing traditional garments.

The Saudi Arabian Students Association’s members offered Arabian coffee and pastries. They also provided Henna to people visiting their booth.

Boróka Bálint, an exchange student from Hungary, visited both countries’ presentations to compare the Henna. “These are so beautiful. I’m really excited,” she said.

The dinner began at 6 p.m. with a welcoming ceremony by ISU members. The food was one of the main highlights, because attendees make their home countries’ dishes. There are actually two ways to gain entrance into the potluck. Attendees can prepare a dish or people have the option to buy a ticket for admission.

The food was served buffet-style on long tables lining the wall. There were four sections: African and Southeast Asian (Middle East), European, Asian and Australian, and North American.

The international talent show started at 7 p.m. with NKU President James Votruba’s congratulations for the 21st Annual International Potluck Dinner and Talent Show. He said this is one of the greatest events of the school year, and he was glad to see so many people.

“There are many ways to judge the progress of the university over the last 10 years,” Votruba said. “One of the most important ones is the size and quality of this event. This is a wonderful event that celebrates diversity, globalization and the fact that we’re an international community. I couldn’t be happier to be here with my wife to enjoy it all.”

The talent show featured traditional dances and musical performances. There was an Indian dance, Aaja Nachel, which means ‘let’s dance;’ an Egyptian rap Ay Kalam with a Tabla, which is an Egyptian percussion instrument; and a Myanmar rain dance, to name a few.
Two American students played the Djembe, a traditional African drum. Senior international studies major Martin Reed and sophomore international studies major Joe Brennan said they attend this event to share community through music.
“We try to open people up to the spirit of the music,” Brennan said.

The fashion show is the most popular part of the evening, because the international students wear their costumes and show off the beauty of their home nations. Traditional costumes from Morocco, Philippine, Korea, Vietnam, Chile and Russia, among others, were on the stage during this time.

SunKyung Lee, an exchange student from South Korea, performed for the fashion show and played the piano version of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme song, “He’s a Pirate.”’ She said it was the most fantastic international party ever for her, because she got to sample foods that she hadn’t tasted before and saw beautiful traditional clothes from multiple countries.

“This potluck was more special for me, because I participated in the party. I cooked Korean food, wore a Korean costume—Hanbok—in the fashion show, and played the piano on the stage,” she said. “They were such great experiences.”

Steven Kohus, an NKU alumnus, has attended the international potluck six times. He said he thinks it is a great way to experience many different cultures in one night. “I love to learn and see new experiences from around the globe,” he said.
However, Kohus would like to see the event promoted more widely around campus.

“They put up posters, but most students ignore the posters,” he said. “I think they need to do better at reaching more students. Friday was relay for life—people walked until 6 a.m. to help raise money for cancer research, but no ISU members were there.”
According to the ISU President, this year an estimated 300 to 400 people were in attendance for the potluck. However, as Kohus’s opinion indicated, most of those who attended were international students and their families or friends. Also, some of the NKU faculty and staff are usually invited, and a few of them were able to attend.

The Annual International Potluck was sponsored by The Student Collaborative Grant, NKU Athletics and the NKU Alumni Office to name a few. Also, local companies, such as Hofbrauhaus, Tokyo Dragon and Mae Ploy, sponsored the door prize for this event.
NKU currently has over 600 international students from 72 countries on campus.