By Aliya Karimjee
On a snowy night on the last day of February, students at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) had the opportunity to explore different cultures as part of Culture Fest.
Culture Fest, which was hosted by Student Life and Learning Support (SLLS) and International Student Support (ISS), took place on Feb. 28 at the Sheldon and Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre.
Students were able to meet different cultural student groups at TMU, put on mehndi (henna), test their knowledge on how to say “hello” in different languages through Kahoot quizzes and try different types of cuisine.
Dinelli Lowe, a first-year engineering student, said culture plays a significant role in one’s life, which is why she loves to attend events on campus like Culture Fest.
Lowe is Sinhalese and said she appreciated seeing a little part of the fashion and culture.
“I don’t really have a lot of outlets to show my culture so it’s not something I see very often and I feel very proud when I do,” she said.
Sara Wong, the orientation and campus events facilitator, explained that the event was still successful despite there being a lower turnout due to the snowstorm.
“It was nice to still see a lot of students talking to their friends [and] enjoying a meal together, which is really an important piece and aspect of culture, which is what we wanted,” said Wong.
Culture Fest was originally supposed to feature a fashion show but the snowstorm led a few student groups and models to cancel.
Still, students and staff made the best of the circumstances. They were able to try different types of cuisine, including Caribbean, Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian dishes, which allowed students to eat the food they recognized from their home country or cultural background and explore new options as well.
Some students also attended wearing traditional clothes despite the lack of a proper runway.
Rama Barham, an international student experience facilitator and student advisor, said despite the fashion show part of the Culture Fest being cancelled due to the snowstorm, some students who attended did share what they were wearing and its cultural significance.
Similarly, Adrian Omoruyi, a first-year computer engineering student, wore a yellow Buba, which is a colourful, long printed Nigerian shirt, mostly worn at events.
“Culture Fest was an opportunity for people to express themselves more. TMU is really multicultural,” said Omoruyi.
His friend Douglas Rogers, a first-year computer engineering student, added that he also loves clothing as a form of cultural self-expression.
“I really love dressing up. Clothes are a very important way of expressing yourself, and I find it interesting when you live in an area like this, downtown Toronto, the different styles and fashions mix because there’s so many different types of people,” said Rogers.
He appreciated that the event still took place despite the challenges brought by the snowstorm.
“Culture is life. You live and express yourself to your culture,” said Rogers. “Not only is it an expression of yourself but it’s an expression of your history, your family and everyone from your country.”
The appreciation among students and staff is the reason Barham said she continues to organize events like Culture Fest.
“Culture to me means where you feel like home,” said Barham.