Event Stamps Passport to Understanding

Published: Feb 19, 2007
By Robin Roger
Web Writer

Nikole Phillip said she never paid much attention to Indian culture before, even though there are many Indian immigrants living in the country where she grew up.

The Trinidad native learned more about India through her Global Issues class at the University of Tampa, she said.

“Just being in global issues educates you and takes you outside the U.S.,” Phillip said.

Sporting a sari and a jeweled bindi, Phillip represented India on Feb. 16 as part of a Global Village Simulation in the Bob Martinez Sports Center, where students presented traditional music, food, clothing and culture from 33 countries. The simulation, which began in 1994, gives students insight into cultures from around the world. The event is part of the Global Issues class, which all students take in their first year at the University.

The students decorated booths, made food, and created costumes and performances. Students attended either a morning or afternoon session where they rated each country, from one to 10, on categories including food, dress, decorations and performance. At the end of the day, they tallied the points and reported their top three countries.

At one booth, students served nshima, a bread made of corn meal and water, and greeted people speaking one of Zambia’s 78 languages. At another, students painted henna—red dye—on visitors’ hands.

On stage, two students representing Kenya sang in Swahili, repeating the customary greeting, “Jambo!” One group put on a skit to teach students about cultural taboos in Turkey, such as showing the bottom of your shoe. The group representing France put on a mock fashion show.

Saudi Arabia won first place in the morning, and South Africa won first place for the afternoon. First place winners received certificates and $250 to be spent on class activities.

“The largest point is to get them working in teams and learning about other cultures,” said Dr. Kevin Beach, associate professor of biology, organizer of the event.

The group representing India did a traditional dance, accompanied by authentic Indian music and the contemporary song “Beware” by Jay-Z and Panjabi MC. Their instructor, Dr. Wasif Alam, said they choreographed the dance themselves after watching Bollywood films and getting together every night to practice. The visiting professor of global issues also taught classes representing Nigeria, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

All of the countries exchanged money and commodities to meet pre-determined goals, he said. The Saudi Arabian group had to import things like machinery and livestock from Japan and the United States, and their only export was petroleum. They quickly learned the power of petroleum, Alam said.

“They set the price; they can get whatever price they want,” he said. “One student said, ‘I don’t even have to get up from my seat—everyone comes to me.’”

Later in the semester, the classes will participate in a model United Nations where they will debate each other on current issues.

“This is a valuable experience for freshmen embarking on an international education,” said Anne Stockdell-Giesler, assistant professor of English. “They wouldn’t do this if they weren’t in the class, and they get something out of it.”