International Open Market event brings world culture to campus

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CSUN hosted an International Open Market event on the Matador Bookstore Lawn Nov. 17 as part of Student Development and International Programs’ International Education Week.

The event was intended to spread awareness of the international community through the CSUN community, said Michelle Bayol, activities assistant for SDIP and primary organizer of the event, which lasted from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“We want to encourage individuals to become citizens of the world by taking time to learn and experience what other countries and cultures are like,” Bayol said.

Off-campus artists and various CSUN student groups participated in the event to demonstrate their culture’s food, music, and art, Bayol said.

She said the African Student Organization, Filipino American Student Association, Armenian Student Association and CSUN Capoeria participated in the event, which also featured classical Indian Bharatnatyam dancing and CSU International Programs Study Abroad promoters, among others, as well as several international students.

One of the intentions of the event was to create connections between international and American students, Bayol said.

“We are living in a global society and there is a need to understand and relate to different cultures,” she said.

Francis Appiah, president of the African Student Organization and Ghana native, played African folk music with two drummers at the event.

“Anybody follows us as long as they understand the rhythm,” he said.

Appiah said he would also give information about the current hunger crisis in Niger to try and raise awareness and funds for relief.

Shanye Huang, a Chinese calligrapher, who had a solo exhibition at CSUN in 1998, was invited to demonstrate his newest artworks about combinations of Chinese characters and English letters at the Open Market event.

“It is a great way to show how to teach young people about our culture,” said Huang as he instructed several CSUN students in his ancient art.

Terenig Topjian, an Armenian American, decided to participate in the Open Market as way to connect with others from his native country.

“It is a good way for me to meet a lot of different kinds of Armenians,” Topjian said.

A senior art major, Topjian said that because many Armenians live in other nations like Lebanon, Iran and Canada, their customs vary greatly. He said “this is a day to educate one another about our different cultures.”

Sheetal Menon, a graduate of Bombay University in India, has lived from the United States for three years. She performed Bharatnatyam dancing at the Open Market.

“Many students think what they see in films is how classical dance from India (looks, but) it is not,” Menon said. “This was a good opportunity to work with young people and show a traditional dance from my country.”

Menon said she has been practicing dance since she was three, and Bharatnatyam dancing, which is known for its grace, purity and tenderness, is the most popular dance form from Southern India, as well as one of the oldest of all Indian classical dances.

Phu The, graduate student in engineering and an international student from Burma, brought several Burmese art works she purchased when she was in Burma.

“It’s new art,” The said. “But it’s really popular and a lot of people love it in my country. (It’s) traditional in a way.”

The said she participated in the event because she wanted more CSUN students to know about her country, and also to get to know more Burmese students on campus.

“Hopefully, a lot of people get to know there is a country called Burma,” The said.

Marvin Street, a senior sociology major that helped host a table to promote the university’s study abroad program, said the Open Market is an excellent event because it creates more awareness for international students on campus.

“I’m also trying to get awareness,” Street said. “I want to see other cultures and see what they have and what they bring to university because I’m sociology major and I want to learn about people and I want to learn about where they are coming from.”

People who have had experiences with study abroad programs attended the event.

“I did an exchange program in Hungary, a semester at sea and I taught for a year in Poland,” said Michelle Ayazi, CSUN alumna.

Ayazi, who now works for the National Center for Deaf Studies on campus, recently returned from Poland this summer where she taught English to youth and adults.

“I know some words and phrase, enough to order food,” said Ayazi when asked if she needed to know the language before studying abroad.

Ayazi said the international study abroad program is a great way to break down stereotypes. She urged students of all races and ethnicity to interact with one another as a way to ease the anxiety one feels when they are in an unfamiliar place.

“Being in a foreign country can be lonely and intimidating,” Ayazi said. “You need people to make you feel welcome.”

Darren Dickerson and Aya Oikawa can be reached at city@csun.edu.