The International Students Association hosted its first annual World Food Night in partnership with more than 10 other culture-based associations Sunday, two years after the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students gathered in University Yard to sample cultural cuisines native to each organization, play games and watch performances from GW’s dance associations. Student organization leaders said they were eager to share their cultural traditions with more than 150 students who attended.
Tina Peng, a senior and the president of ISA, said she intended to use the event to address food insecurity issues for international students who don’t have ready access to meals specific to their home country. She said she hopes the event will promote cultural awareness for students by bringing multicultural dishes and entertainment to campus.
“We have a really diverse student group, however, we don’t really see them represented enough,” Peng said. “And that’s kind of the main reason why we invited all of these cultural and identity-based student orgs to sell their food as well as having performances.”
Peng said international students who have since graduated initially planned the event for spring 2020 before it was postponed after the outbreak of the pandemic. She said she had a “great feeling” seeing the event she envisioned as a sophomore finally take form during her senior year.
“Literally a month before I graduate, I was able to actually have this event planned out,” she said. “So it was really nice.”
Robert Naldgian, a junior majoring in French and economics and a member of the Armenian Students Association, said his table hosted games of backgammon, a chess-like game especially popular in Armenia, and served traditional Armenian foods like lahmacun, a spiced pizza-like dish topped with minced meat and vegetables, and small cheese pastries known as borek.
He said the association was there to fly the Armenian flag and teach students about Armenian culture, something he said very few students know a lot about.
“I’ve met a lot of kids who are Armenian that don’t know about the org,” Naldgian said. “So it’s kind of cool talking to them.”
Katarina Nguyen, the president of Asian-interest sorority Sigma Psi Zeta, said the sorority handed out food like samosas, a fried or baked pastry with a savory filling that is common in India, which was served to about 30 people at the event. The organization was also doing Henna at their table, temporary body art that is a cultural tradition popular in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Morocco.
“I think it helps them to get introduced to more cultures and get to try more new food,” Nguyen said.