Passport to the world

An annual event that provides cultural exchange

 | By

Each year in November, the International Affairs Office at the University of North Alabama holds an event called “Passport to the World.” The event has occurred for several years and provides both students and the community of Florence opportunities to learn more about different cultures.

Passport to the World occurs on November 15 and is free and open to the public. The event happens after business hours, so it’s great for people to stop by after work, class or other daily shenanigans.“We actually celebrate it during International Education week,” the International Affairs Office said. “It’s a whole week dedicated to international education, run under Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, under the US Government. Since we have international students, we as a university wanted to partake in the celebration. Passport to the World is our largest event during that week and occurs at the end of International Education week, ending the week on a positive note.”

“Students come to the US wanting to know about the US and American culture, but we want them to be able to educate us as well.”

UNA currently has roughly 280 international students, with a total of almost 40 countries represented.  At the event, students set up a booth for their country and represent their culture in a variety of ways. They can dress in cultural clothing, bring pictures of their country and bring cultural souvenirs from their countries that are special to them. You can even watch a display of cultural talents, from singing to dancing to Chinese calligraphy.

Students also make their own food, making a fun experience for guests to come and try different foods from different countries.

Many different activities occur during this event, all with the goal of promoting International Education.

Passport to the World receives strong community support. In the past, the mayor of Florence made a declaration of International Education week, sending out a letter to everyone in the community.

The International Affairs Office said they appreciate that their city is supporting these international students.

[PHOTOS COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF NORTH ALABAMA]

Passport to the World is one of two major cultural events.

“We do two events per year, the fall and the spring,” the office said. “The one in the spring is for broader community and schools, because it occurs in the middle of the day. Kilby and other elementary schools come to that one. We coordinate with alumni relations because they do Leo and Una’s birthday party in April, so we do it on that day. Students can come to both events for a full day of fun activities.”

The whole idea of Passport to the World is promoting a time to celebrate differences. The event is an effective, personal way to educate the community and show what rich culture these people bring to Florence, Alabama, and allows students to feel that they are a contributing part of the community.

“Students come to the US wanting to know about the US and American culture, but we want them to be able to educate us as well,” the office said.

What culture will you learn more about this fall?