By Ashton Leber and Rachel Von Hollen
Features Editor and Correspondent
As soon as students entered room 212 of the Education Building, their senses were overwhelmed with wafts of spices, colorful posters and upbeat music. The room was filled with a diverse group of students currently studying abroad here in the U.S., all eager to share their love of their home country and culture.
The third annual Trip Around the World, held on Nov. 14, allowed students to gain an open-minded perspective on different cultures.
Hosted by the International House and the Center for Global Engagement, the event encouraged participants to learn about other countries, cultures and customs.
Trip Around the World was done in part to acknowledge International Education Week, a nationwide opportunity for institutions to prepare the U.S. for a more globally influenced environment and celebrate the benefits of international education.
“The annual Trip Around the World event is a unique opportunity for our exchange students to showcase the places where they come from, alongside the student organizations engaged in building the cultural awareness of our campus community,” said Joanne Bateup, the international student and scholar advisor at the College.
The international students at the College represented the countries they hail from, including Germany, India, Haiti and the United Kingdom.
Different cultural clubs on campus, such as the Association of Students for Africa, Chabad and TCNJ NAACP also set up tables at the event.
Each country and club had their own table and trifold filled with everything from food, props and games for students to interact with and enjoy as they walked about the room.
Rabbi Akiva Greenbaum, an adjunct professor of religion at the College and representative for Chabad, offered students matzah, unrisen bread commonly eaten on the Jewish holiday of Passover. He also had an Israeli flag hanging in front of his table.
“Your identity, whether it be your food style or your needs, your language or your music, it’s beautiful,” Greenbaum said. “We are made to stand out, not to fit in.”
Ariana Berberabe, a junior accounting major co-organized and co-hosted the event with Elizabeth Zakaim, a junior journalism and professional writing and psychology double major and the international house community advisor. Zakaim is also The Signal’s arts & entertainment section editor.
Berberabe and Zakaim began planning the event in late September with Bateup, who also co-manages the International House Living Learning Community with Residential Education and Housing. Brenelle Tyus, the residence director for the Townhouses Complex, also contributed to organizing the event.
“The goal of (Trip Around the World) is to showcase the diverse cultures of our lovely international students and campus organizations,” Berberabe said. “Guests were able to learn about customs and cuisines through the interactive trivia games and food samples.”
Berberabe also managed the table for the Philippines alongside Barkada’s executive board.
Students were able to indulge in a taste of Filipino culture with puto, a steamed rice cake that left many coming back for a second helping.
“It was heartwarming to have the opportunity to share our culture and to see firsthand the genuine interest in our culture,” Berberabe said.
Although international students are only here for a short period of time, it doesn’t mean they’re any less important to the College community.
“While individual exchange students come to TCNJ for one semester or one year, the impact that they have on our campus, and the impact our campus has on them is immeasurable,” Bateup said.
Ajayraj Singh sra, a senior journalism and professional writing and communications double major, represented his home country of Australia with pictures and facts on a trifold.
Singh sra also provided native Australian snacks, such as Tim Tams and cherry ripe bars, for students to enjoy.
“Portraying the right image of Australia meant a lot for me,” Singh sra said. “Whenever a guest got interested in visiting my country, it meant that I was painting a clear picture for what my country stands for.”
Each representative wanted to express not only the importance of embracing diversity on campus, but their own heritage too.
“Events like Trip Around the World let us strip away the barriers that may exist between us for any number of larger reasons (such as) religion, economics, cultural norms and values,” Bateup said. “Those barriers fade away and we interact with each other for who we are — fun-loving humans.”