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Indian fusion dance team Delaware Kamaal entertained at the recent Festival of the Nations.
When the Indian
fusion dance team Delaware Kamaal took to the stage at the University of
Delaware’s Festival of Nations on Oct. 13, the members began dancing to
a rhythmic Bharatanatyam classic. The music soon transitioned to a
bouncy Bollywood hit and many in the crowd started swaying. There was a
collective roar of approval as the dance team then segued into a
thumping hip hop beat.
Similar enthusiasm was shown for a K-pop band, for the UD Gospel
Choir, and for a fashion show featuring members of the UD community
modeling attire from their home countries, including Korean hanboks,
Chinese cheongsams and Omani dishdasha. One of the crowd favorites was
Adam Bentahar, 7, who modelled a Moroccan djellaba alongside his dad,
Adil Bentahar, who was sporting a Moroccan djabadour.
The Festival of Nations, sponsored by UD’s English Language
Institute, and co-sponsored this year by the Center for Global Programs
and Services, dates back more than 25 years but was not held in 2020 or
2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re so glad to be back,” said Adil Bentahar, an assistant
professor at the English Language Institute (ELI), who co-chaired the
event with Rebecca Boyle, ELI’s student life manager. Bentahar noted
that the entertainment line-up included international performers and
groups with mostly domestic students.
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Students from Japan showed off their calligraphy skills.
“Our goal is to be as inclusive as possible,” Bentahar said. “We
work to maximize the number of domestic students who attend the Festival
of Nations so that they can see a glimpse of the heritage of their
international counterparts. Likewise, we want to offer international
students the opportunity to see performances by domestic students.”
The event was free and open to the public, and attracted about 700 people of all ages.
At the Japanese cultural table, Honoko Wakahara, 20, was writing
visitors’ names in Katakana, a form of Japanese used for transcription
from foreign languages. She is majoring in English history at Nagoya
University of Foreign Studies (NUFS) in the city of Nisshin, Japan.
Wakahara began her studies at ELI in late August and will conclude her
course of study in April. She said she is enjoying not only her classes
but the cultural immersion of being at UD.
“I went to my first football game and it was great,” she said with a
wide smile. While she has embraced many new experiences, when she needs a
taste of home, she heads to a traditional ramen restaurant on Main
Two students share a moment of conversation at the Festival of Nations.
While Wakahara has been on campus less than three months, Hashil Al
Ismaili began his studies at ELI almost two years ago. Al Ismaili and a
group of fellow students were staffing the Oman cultural table, which
featured displays of traditional garments and shoes, photos of Omani
leaders and the country’s flag, all topped off with red, green and white
“I love Oman” helium balloons.
Al Ismaili is now a UD sophomore majoring in materials science and
engineering. He said that the greatest surprise when he first arrived
was the sheer diversity of the campus and of the greater community.
“In my first days here, I met people from Nepal and Iran and so many
other places,” Al Ismaili said. “I feel like everyone is friendly. The
undergraduates [from the U.S.] are pretty welcoming and interested in
hearing about my culture.”
Students from Oman, and dozens of other countries, set up displays about their home countries at the Festival of Nations.
Still, he remembers the challenges of navigating a new environment
during those first weeks on campus. In his new position as a part-time
student life assistant at ELI, he will work to make things easier for
other new international students. “Forty-four students from Oman will
soon arrive,” Al Ismaili said. “I will help them with things like
setting up a bank account and finding Halal food.”
Al Ismaili had more to say but the musical entertainment was
starting. He was too polite to say so, but it was apparent he was ready
to join the fun. And after two years without a Festival of Nations, how
could anyone deny the impulse to sing, dance and celebrate together?
Visit the English Language Institute website or call 302-831-2674 for more information about ELI and its programs.
Article by Margo McDonough, photos by Evan Krape Published November 09, 2022