The first sign that something was different came from the pronounced aroma of several dozen dishes, each carefully prepared by first-year students in the International Student Association. The event was the annual International Food Festival, which has emerged as a must-attend program for students and faculty from the Wake Forest University Schools of Business.
As I approached closer to the quad, I was amazed to see just how many booths had been set up in a horseshoe pattern around the open area. What was more exciting was the realization the Wake had a highly diverse student population: India, Korea, Egypt, and Trinidad were among the many nations represented at this year’s event. It was interesting to see so many people - faculty, MBA, MA and MSA students - at tables enjoying the food.
The best part of the festival is interacting with the other students as they proudly presented foods they had spent hours preparing earlier in the day. And the variety was wonderful! One could easily construct an international meal, ranging from Korean barbecue and a Peruvian lamb dish to terrific desserts that included plantains from West Africa and carrot halwa from one of the Indian teams. I can honestly say that each dish was delicious, and I greatly respect and appreciate the hard work each chef/cook put into their items.
Another part of the program that fascinated me was how the ISA built its teams. Each group was diverse, so certain students could learn about the other cultures within their programs and in the ISA itself. Learning extended beyond food. Most tables were equipped to talk about their cultures and one team went an extra step by wearing costumes to further the experience.
The entire event lasted less than three hours, though many people hung around the quad to socialize and enjoy the terrific weather. There was plenty of time to make multiple trips around the booths (not much food, if any, remained at the end of the night). I would however like to see the ISA sponsor another “mini” event, perhaps in the spring. I’m sure it is time consuming to put something like this together, but I would selfishly like another opportunity to experience and learn more about the diversity we celebrate at Wake Forest!