International Fest Goes Virtual For The First Time In 15 Years

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IUPUI’s international program hosted its annual international fest. For the first time in their 15-year history, the festival was moved online. The IUPUI international committee expanded the international fest from a day to a whole week to allow students and staff to attend the events. Marielle Petranoff works for the office of international affairs office and was the logistics and technology coordinator in charge of the international festival.

The decision to have the festival online was made well in advance. Petranoff and her board members thought about all the outcomes on how to host the event. She also discussed how difficult it was to host and plan for such an event, especially when you are going from in person and a day full of events to being spread out in a week and now being all online.

“We made the decision pretty early that we were not going to be able to do any in person events.” Petranoff stated that they start working on planning the festivals in February every year. This allows Petranoff and her staff to plan accordingly with what’s going on around the world and here at IUPUI. 

“We are already making reservations in February of the previous year and putting things in over the summer and then really getting to start work in October or November. By the end of November of 2020 we knew that we weren’t going to do anything in person.”

Petranoff talked about the benefits and challenges that COVID-19 allowed the festival to experiment with a week of festival activities instead of a day. 

“So, normally the international festival is a big one-day event so there’s free food, performances and all sorts of things to draw you [students] the space, and we knew we weren’t going to be able to create that. A big challenge of the previous festival was that there’s people that work that can’t stop by the campus center between 10 a.m. through 2 p.m.one day of the week.”

 Petranoff admitted even though it was challenging to recreate the international festival over the years through virtual instead of in person, they found alternative ways to do so.

“It was definitely challenging.” Petranoff said, “We couldn't hand out free food, but we could still have people teach you recipes and post recipes online and on our social media. We could still have performances by having people teach you how to dance and we could still have the lectures that normally happen in the campus centered as well as some of the exhibit booths all in a digital format.”

Once Petranoff figured out what she could do and came up with a plan, it got a lot easier. It also allowed for them to connect with more people due to how the events were spread out into a week and not jammed into one day.

Last spring semester there were lots of events being canceled due to the pandemic. 

Petranoff  described what went through her mind on why it was necessary to have this event. 

“This is the third International Festival that I personally have been responsible for putting together and honestly not having the event never crossed my mind. This is an important event for the campus. It’s an important event for our office but also for international students.”

There are more than just international students that come to IUPUI. According to Petranoff, “We also have researchers who come from around the world who are called scholars and faculty that come from around the world. This is the one big time that we celebrate their contributions and showcase how international IUPUI is. Now, we do this throughout the year in a lot of different ways, but this is the big celebration that happens and even though people aren’t traveling around the world as much we still have over 2000 international students and scholars who call IUPUI home.”

Petranoff wants to get everyone involved and stated, “We have over 140 different countries that attend IUPUI. We have students who are from the US, who are studying international languages and cultures. We have student organizations like the African Student Association and Malaysian Student Association and so many different student associations that deserved to be showcased to be able to connect the global and the local.”

With how successful the virtual international fair was, it is intriguing to see how next year’s international festival will turn out. Petranoff and the international office are already in talks about how next year's international festival will turn out.

Petranoff wants to incorporate some of the things that happened in this year’s festival into next year such as keeping the festival for a week to ensure students can attend some events if they would not be available during such days. Another key one was the connection from other countries via zoom that they had during the event. Marielle obviously wants the festival to be back in person but having it digital really opened the door to new ideas.

If you want to get more information on how to follow and become a part of international affairs, sign up for their newsletter social media @iupuiglobal and email their front desk office at oia@iupui.edu.


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