Senior accounting major Michael Ikunyua from Kenya had no idea what he was getting into when he came to Marquette, a city that his brother had trouble googling four years ago.
Ikunyua is now president of NMU’s All Nations Club, a group that represents the international student population at Northern and encourages domestic students to become more involved in learning about other cultures.
The club’s main event, which sold out last year, is its annual International Food Fest which will be held Sunday, March 21 from 11 to 3 p.m. in the Jacobetti Center. Ikunyua said that members of the club will work with NMU’s hospitality management program to prepare dishes from about 20 different countries, reflecting the various nations represented in the NMU community.
African-style grilled tilapia, curried chicken and curried potatoes from Trinidad and the West-Indies; chicken biryani from India; shish kebabs from Turkey, and tom kha from Thailand are just a sampling of dishes that will be available.
“[The Food Fest] is an opportunity that we give to people to come together and to interact with each other in a social setting,” Ikunyua said.
Ikunyua added that there will also be international music and dancers representing various cultures to accompany the meal.
“It’s a really nice opportunity … to eat something that you’re not accustomed to,” Ikunyua said. “I just urge people to come out and experience the diversity that we have, not only just in students, but also in food. … Where else can you get that?”
Dane Durham, also a senior accounting major, from Trinidad, is currently chairman of the All Nations Club and hopes that this year’s 2010 Food Fest will be the most diverse year yet.
“In terms of bringing awareness and also education, it’s kind of ironic that you can actually do that through food,” Durham said.
“Food is kind of representative of a culture and where you’re from.”
Through events such as the Food Fest, in addition to their weekly meetings every Friday at 3 p.m. at Starbucks and “Culture Corner” from 7:15 – 7:30 p.m. on Radio X, Durham said he hopes the club will gain an increased presence on campus.
“We want the All Nations Club to be a bit more recognized, not just by students, but by faculty and for them to appreciate when they have international students on campus,” Durham added.
Angela Maki, adviser of the All Nations Club, said that the club sold over 300 tickets for last year’s Food Fest and hopes to sell 400 this year in a continued endeavor to bring international and domestic students together in an effort to raise awareness.
“We just take for granted some of our cultures,” Maki said, “So I think with the international students they can bring awareness to their different customs that are much different than [those here].”
In addition to the Food Fest and “Culture Corner,” Maki said that members of the Northern and Marquette communities contact her when they’re interested in learning about another country. Many of these are Northern professors, students looking to study abroad or students in the nursing program who have to interview an international student about their native health care system.
Maki believes that the opportunity that these international students present by coming to Northern is something that domestic students can really benefit from.
“When students hear it from another student it means more,” Maki said.
Those interested in attending this year’s International Food Fest are encouraged to purchase their tickets early, either from NMU’s International Programs Office in 145 Whitman Hall or at 906-227-2510, Michael Ikunyua at 906-360-7816, or Dane Durham at 906-869-0235. Tickets are $5 for students and $9 for non-students.