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International Festival Brings the World to UST

The Dance Group Wawel make their debut at the 11th annual IFest.The 11th Annual International Festival at the University of St. Thomas brought the world to UST for an evening of fun, food and cultural displays.  An estimated 700 attendees from campus and the greater community came out to enjoy a taste of the world, ranging from Brazilian samba, traditional Polish dancing, Argentine empanadas and Saudi Arabian tea with cultural displays representing more than 25 countries on April 24th.

Produced by the International Studies Society, under the sponsorship of the Center for International Studies, IFEST has become a major event in building campus life and tradition at UST since its inception in 1993.

“IFEST is all about celebrating the great diversity of cultures that we have at UST,” said, Dominic Kisielewski, ISS president. “Our goal is to provide a fun environment in which everyone can learn about and experience our university’s diverse campus.” 

Students showcased their cultural heritage and experience at a variety of culture tables, ranging from Poland to Taiwan and Kazakhstan to Kenya. This year, there was an outreach to area high schools, including a table hosted by the Houston Academy for International Studies.

Pictured L to R: Dr. Stockton and ISS Officers Dominic Kisielewski, Leticia Gordillo, Sheila George, Rebecca Skaff and Jaqueline DeLeon ham it up at the 11th Annual IFest.Houston’s gastronomical scene was represented with the inclusion of local food trucks and restaurants: the Waffle Bus, Mélange Creperie, Apna Bazaar and Marini’s Empanadas.

Performances included current students such as Yessica Krozel, a junior International studies major, and Stephanie Hernandez, a senior international studies major, along with professional dance companies: Indian folk dancers from Bella Donna Dance Company, salsa dancers from Strictly Street Salsa and samba dancers from LD Dance Company.

In addition to the performers and cuisines, a key aspect of IFEST is to develop student leadership.  The event is planned and produced by the International Studies Society, a student-led organization dedicated to enriching the community through academic, cultural and social events throughout the year. Besides IFEST, past ISS events included a PAIR refugee social, speakers from the CIA and U.S. Department of State, and alumni networking events.

Dr. Hans Stockton, director of the Center for International Studies and faculty sponsor of ISS, said IFEST required student leaders to exercise strong communications, logistics, management skills and have a sense of international mission as they planned and executed the event.

“I’m very proud of our students and the work they have put into creating such a great campus event,” said Dr. Hans Stockton, director of the Center for International Studies and faculty sponsor of ISS.  “Our student leadership produces the entire event in cooperation with other student clubs, the administration, local vendors and our community partners.”

With each successive year, IFEST’s success builds and its reputation in the community grows.

“IFEST is always evolving, and we are continuously pushing ourselves to improve the event,” Kisielewski said. “Next year’s IFEST will only get better!”

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