The smells of henna, cardamom and other spices filled Alumni Hall as Saudi students at Indiana University Kokomo shared their ethnicity to bridge cultural gaps during the Saudi National Day celebration on campus.
Students, faculty and staff sampled mint tea and Arabic coffee, received henna tattoos, tried on Saudi clothing, and saw falcons — the Middle Eastern country’s national symbol. They also tasted traditional foods such as rice, lamb, unleavened bread and spicy vegetable dishes.
“We want to build good relationships with our classmates,” said Talal Al-Hammad, a student in the Master of Business Administration program. “We are pleased to be part of this community. The best part of IU Kokomo is not just the high academic standards, but the faculty and students. They are very friendly and welcome us every day. They have made this a very good experience for us.”
The spices, clothing and food were somewhat familiar to Breanna Santucci, Kokomo, whose mother is part Syrian. She was excited to have her name written in Arabic and to see a large crowd participating in the event.
“It’s important to meet real people and find we have so much in common,” she said. “That helps move past stereotypes some people have about the Middle East.”
As a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, Larry Lawson knows he could be stationed in the Middle East, so he welcomed the opportunity to learn more about Saudi culture. He plans to meet with several of the international students to learn some pointers about the Arabic and Farsi languages.
“Every bit of familiarity I can gain will help me fulfill my job when I am deployed,” Lawson said. “It’s nice to get a taste and an understanding of another culture.”
Lawson, a student in the Transition to Teaching program, called the event a great opportunity, especially for those who have not had the chance to travel overseas.