Big Blue Nation’s International Day celebrates cultural diversity at UK


Brady Saylor

Students walk and wave flags during International Day on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff

Laurel Swanz, Reporter

UK’s Student Activities Board (SAB) and International Center collaborated to host International Day at UK, an event dedicated to embracing the diversity of UK’s international student population, on Monday, Nov. 21.

Home to over 2,000 international students, UK offered the chance to bring unique cultures to life in Gatton Student Center Ballrooms B and C.

International Day at UK consisted of speeches and musical performances from international students, free snacks from around the world, informational booths of various campus communities, cultural attire, a flag ceremony and arts and crafts.

“We know that there’s an international presence here, but I feel like it hasn’t been celebrated as much,” Princess Magor Agbozo, director of multicultural affairs for SAB and a junior from Ghana, said. “So we wanted to give international students that platform to express themselves through food, performance, your outfit – all these different factors.”

The event provided sushi, chips and salsa, nachos and more to attendees. Less than an hour into the event, which over 250 people attended, all the food was gone.

International Day at UK hosted many different organizations including the Iranian Student Organization, which had a booth informing attendees of the protests for women’s rights occuring in Iran.

Students working the booth explained the history of sexism in Iran and encouraged attendees to sign a petition for women’s rights. They handed out flyers that read “Sanction oppressors, not the oppressed. Justice for the women of Iran.”

The Iranian Student Organization led a performance of “Baraye” by Shervin Hajipour, a protest song inspired by the death of Mahsa Amini and its aftermath. Students stood on stage holding the Iranian flag and singing while a presentation of Iranian struggles played behind them.

International Day at UK also included performances by members of the Cameroonian Student Organization and the Brazilian Student Organization.

Cameroonian senior computer engineering major Elnoel Akwa delivered a speech about his experiences as an international student and his hope for peace and understanding across nations. He spoke in English, French, Cameroonian Pidgin English and Camfranglais to honor his home country.

“I was up there trying to give a message to everyone in positions of power that from the top to the bottom of the ladder, technically, we are all human,” Akwa said. “Things has to change in the sense that we have to treat one another in a way we expect to be treated.”

Akwa said International Day made him feel closer to Cameroon from 6,000 miles away.

“Often, it’s easy to feel far away from home, and occasions like this are what unite us, bring us together and kind of give us motivation to go forward,” Akwa said. “We are never that far away from home because home is within us and within our community.”

Ana Carolina, a freshman aerospace engineering major from Brazil, sang and played guitar for her country with a World Cup themed song. She said it was to root for Brazil and show its strength, as well as why they are there.

“It’s time to wake up and show the world that we’re not here to play,” Carolina said. “We are here to show our talent.”

Carolina saw International Day as a chance to share Brazilian culture with her peers.

“This event means to me an opportunity to show that I also come from a rich culture, and that I also have a background,” Carolina said. “This is just a new journey but I have much more before it, so it’s a chance to show the world the good things that my country and me has to offer.”

International Day at UK welcomed students that are not of international descent as well, providing them the opportunity to expand their horizons and explore other cultures. They tasted new foods and tried crafts like sand art and henna.

“That’s what this event means to me, to my community especially as an international student, as well as coming together to just celebrate alongside the locals,” Agbozo said. “They can also come and see what international representation we have and kind of celebrate with us.”

Agbozo said that over 90 countries were represented by International Day at UK.

Tofunmi Oyetan, a senior computer engineering major from Nigeria, dressed in Nigerian attire from head-to-toe and said she appreciated the representation.

“I feel seen, heard, represented … and it just provides that warm community,” Oyetan said. “Seeing diversity, everyone in their native attires, it just brought me closer to home basically.”