The Global Brown Center for International Students, in collaboration with Storytellers@Brown, hosted its annual International Festival on the Main Green Saturday afternoon.
The International Festival “is an opportunity to gather cultural student organizations around campus … and celebrate the awesome work that they do,” said Natalia Roman Alicea, the GBC program coordinator. “It’s an opportunity for us to also bring to the front and center the experiences of our international students.”
The theme of this year’s festival was “Global to Local: Telling stories of home,” said Andrew Heald, program director for the center.
“We feel that storytelling is a really strong tool for giving voice to the unseen (and) for people to take charge of their own narratives,” Heald said, speaking on the center’s collaboration with Storytellers@Brown. This year, each cultural student organization present at the festival recommended a book that represented the organization’s mission or felt reflective of home. These books will be used to open The Global Brown Center Library, which will be housed in the GBC and will be accessible to all members of the Brown community, according to Heald.
The festival featured 23 booths from cultural student organizations and University offices linked to the international community, such as the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender and the Center for Language Studies. Groups such as Mezcla, the Brown/RISD Latinx dance troupe, and Brown Lion Dance, a student group dedicated to the ancient art of Chinese Lion Dance, also performed.
The festival offered many of the participating organizations an opportunity to expand their presence within Brown’s community. “We really welcome the opportunity to both tell people who we are and share a little bit of our culture, as well as get to know other” cultures, said Hailey Chen ’24, who was representing the Brown Taiwan Society.
In order to share their cultures with the Brown community, organizations brought traditional games and foods to their stalls. The recently formed Himalayan Cultural Association shared momos, dumplings from Tibet and Nepal, and chatpati, a popular Nepali street food. The Brazilian Students Association brought brigadores, a sweet made of chocolate and condensed milk.
The Center for Language Studies invited their booth’s visitors to write a small note about what language means to them. “A lot of people at Brown speak another language or learn other languages. It’s a big part of a lot of people’s identities and not one that gets necessarily talked about,” Olivia Howe ’22 said. An emphasis on language is relevant to the festival because it aims to represent “lots of different backgrounds and cultures,” she added.
At the booth for the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender, community and creativity were brought together through a pom-pom making activity, with the goal of “having conversation with one another through the making of something,” according to Claritza Maldonado GS.
Organizers and attendees alike spoke about how special it felt to see Brown’s international community come together through the festival after two years of the pandemic.
Chen, who started her first year in the middle of the pandemic, said that organizing an in-person event posed a challenge. “I’ve never really known what social events look like at Brown prior to 2019,” she said. “I really appreciate the International Festival. It’s the first time I’ve seen so many people together in a while … and you can really form those connections.”
For attendee and international student Nishitha Chaayanath ’25, the festival was a great way to reconnect with other members of the international student community she had not seen since orientation. “It was a great opportunity to see everyone, experience all these different cultures and I really enjoyed it,” she said.
“The heart of the International Festival is two things for me: celebration and recognition,” Heald said. “My hope — especially this year — is that we’re focused on the stories of these groups and … that someone walks away from the festival with a new story.”