Multicultural Center hosts international festival


GALE WHITEHEAD / The Journal An Ayaka tribe dancer performs a North African dance at i-Fest, an international festival held annually by the Multicural Center and and International Student Affairs on Friday, April 15.

(Webster Groves, April 21, 2011) When she was a child, Maria Molteni lived in a small village in the African country of Tanzania. Her parents, both doctors, administered health care to the village residents.  Her father was a tropical disease doctor. Her mother oversaw projects to reduce AIDS in the region and provided counseling.  While living there, Molteni fetched water, wore sandals and lived the “proper village life.” Molteni and her family would eventually move to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city.

Years later, Molteni learned about Webster University while visiting Geneva, Switzerland.  After finishing her education in Tanzania last fall, Molteni enrolled at Webster in St. Louis and is currently pursing an undergraduate degree in international business.

On April 15, Molteni and other international students at Webster volunteered at i-Fest, an event highlighting Webster’s global students.  The event was held in Grant Gymnasium and organized by the Multicultural Center & International Student Affairs (MCISA).  Attendees of i-Fest sampled food and enjoyed performances from various cultures and countries from around the world.  A limbo contest and suitcase-packing race were also held on stage.  Almost 100 people attended the i-Fest.

Niki Parres, assistant director of the MCISA, said Webster’s international population has much to offer the university.

“Students are here to learn from an American campus, but also want to share about their culture,” Parres said.

One of those students is Michelle Carter, a freshman film studies major from Chile. Carter pursued her education at Nido De Aguilas, the International School of Chile. Carter said she remembers being the native student in a school filled with international students.  The dynamic has changed at Webster, where she is now a foreigner among    her peers.

“Everybody really wants to know where I’m from,” Carter said.  “It is fun to get to talk about my country.”

Carter said she came to Webster for the small school atmosphere and on a scholarship.  She said she really enjoys the international community at Webster because they understand what she is going through being away from home.  She said the support she received from her international friends has been great.

Also volunteering at i-Fest was Saeed Aoubail, a graduate student from Saudi Arabia.  Aoubail, 31, is pursuing a master’s degree in advertising and marketing and communications.  Before he came to America, Aoubail was a banker in Saudi Arabia.  In 2008, he enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) to prepare for the master’s program.

Aoubail said when SEMO made it too hard for him to participate, he made the decision to switch to a university he had heard of in St. Louis. Aoubail came to Webster in 2010 and plans to graduate next December.

“Webster has helped me to know my career,” Aoubail said.

After graduation, Aoubail hopes to secure a job in the United States, gain experience in advertising and marketing and then travel back to Saudi Arabia to work.

Returning home is also on the minds of Molteni and Carter.  This summer, Molteni and her family will be vacationing in Como, Italy where they own a small house.  Carter will be going back to Chile and eagerly counts down the days until she can see her family again.

“It helps me enjoy my last weeks here because I have something to look forward too,” Carter said.

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