Jacquelyn von Staden, president of the WVU Chinese Club, said she once didn’t feel comfortable being who she was.
“In my home town, I didn’t feel very welcomed,” von Staden, a computer studies and Chinese studies student, said. She didn’t feel comfortable with her half Korean and half German identity in a predominantly caucasian neighborhood.
Then she came to WVU.
“I’m finally accepted here,” von Staden said. “Here in college, where everyone’s sharing so many cultures and identities, it’s safe to be who I am.”
This year, her organization decided to participate in the International Street Festival on Saturday for the first time. Since its beginnings in 2016, the festival marks the end of WVU’s Diversity Week, a seven-day celebration of the different cultures and people at WVU.
“What we’re celebrating here is all of our international students,” said WVU President Gorgon Gee. “We have here students from 55 counties, from 50 states, 118 countries and we speak 100 different languages.”
The importance of diversity was displayed in multiple booths lining Morgantown’s High Street for the festival. Traditional foods, music and games were showcased and shared as people of different races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs all mingled amongst one another.
The increased awareness and inclusivity for other cultures is precisely what the International Street Festival is all about and what Becky McDaniel, the program coordinator for the Office of Global Affairs, hopes to accomplish.
McDaniel said she strives “to open the eyes of the community and allow them to see that we are a diverse University...that we are one WVU.”
From students, organizations, business owners and local entrepreneurs, the festival provided participants an open and safe environment to learn about Morgantown’s, as well as the world’s, multitude of cultures.