Vibrant display of cultural diversity on campus

Published 27 July 2011

harbinduThe multicultural fabric of the University of New England’s student community was on full display last Friday when international students staged their annual Multicultural Fair.

Students from more than a dozen countries, dressed in colourful national costumes and serving exotic foods, filled the University’s Northern Courtyard with the colours and sounds – as well as the tastes – of nations including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Pacific Islands, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Kezang Lhamo and Tshering Nidup – both second-year undergraduate science students from Bhutan – were dispensing Bhutanese dumplings (momo) and sweet yellow rice, Harbin Du (pictured here) – an undergraduate business student from Nanjing – and several of his compatriots were offering Chinese fare including spring rolls, and there was much more besides. Visitors to the fair could sample Middle Eastern sweets reclining in the surroundings of a Bedouin tent, and there was even an Australian stall with Anzac biscuits, Tim Tams, lamingtons and pumpkin scones. There were also displays of national arts, crafts, and dance.

Hundreds of students and staff members from around the UNE campus – as well as people from the wider Armidale community – enjoyed the multicultural atmosphere of the fair. “Because we’ve been welcomed to Armidale, we like to show what we have to offer in return,” said Wae-Jae Tan, a UNE Bachelor of Commerce graduate who was on duty at the Malaysian stall. “The Multicultural Fair brings the world to Armidale.”

For Hawlader Mamum, a newly-arrived postgraduate student from Bangladesh – as for other participants in the fair – an important aspect of the event was meeting fellow students from different countries, and getting an insight into the range of nationalities represented on campus.

“The fair shows staff members and students just how multicultural their campus really is,” said Mark Cooper, Deputy Director of Studies at UNE’s English Language Centre. “It helps to break down cultural barriers and to make our international students feel included in the campus.”

Lesley Nies, Events & Community Engagement Officer for English Language & International Services at UNE, said international students had been “very keen” to participate in the event, which had taken about two months for her to organise in collaboration with students from all the countries represented and staff members from Student Assist. “It’s gone exceptionally well,” Mrs Nies said.