Why celebrate WorldFest?

By Isobel Campbell

Since the Coronavirus pandemic started in 2020, there have been news articles and campaigns urging you to stay connected in a time that has perpetuated such disconnectedness. One important way of staying active and aware is through being involved in events which reminds you of and teaches you fresh skills and lessons. Through celebrating WorldFest at the University of Kent, there is an opportunity to do just that. Throughout the month there are a multitude of events including: language taster sessions, ‘talking culture’ workshops and an ongoing cultural food calendar. Furthermore, there will be talks from different societies such as the Cypriot society, and the Kent Africa summit promises to include incredibly interesting talks surrounding themes of African spirituality and analysing current cultural affairs. So, why should you get involved? If this array of events and activities isn’t enough to encourage you, then perhaps consider the importance of remaining culturally intelligent in a time when an international lifestyle feels like a distant memory.

By partaking in WorldFest and learning about new cultures through students you will have the opportunity to embark on a new wave of cultural intelligence. So, what does it mean to be ‘culturally intelligent’? This concept is covered through the incredibly interesting ‘talking cultures’ workshops and shows ways which help you raise your cultural awareness in everyday life. There are often two approaches seen when devising what ‘culture’ really is, for example, there is an approach which is based around how people perceive and categorise the world and, on the other hand, one which shifts the focus from local observation and interpretations to those of the anthropologist. Cultural intelligence therefore is being aware of these differences, it is vastly important as a person in this global society to be aware of what culture really means to you. Allowing yourself to become more culturally aware can be accomplished through accepting that your own perceptions are coloured by your own culture; being more empathetic with the views of others and, actively trying to understand other cultures and the complexities entrenched within the formations of cultures. This is why the month-long event of WorldFest can be so important to an individual looking to learn more about ideas of culture and could seriously expand your ideas of what it means to be a global citizen. Ensuring your status as a global citizen in this time may seem like an impossible task, or one that is pointless at this time, but a rise in cultural awareness can lead to a growth in understanding or empathy, and being able to notice actions of intolerance in the workplace or in our university; hence, cultural awareness can surely only improve one’s ability to be a kind, empathetic and fair global citizen. WorldFest therefore is a platform which allows for cultural awareness to grow, and in turn, prepares us to be better.

Moreover, whether you are looking to study or work abroad in the coming years, or you are just fascinated about the impact of culture in your life and wish to widen your understanding, these concepts are tremendously important to the rise of your own confidence in your cultural convictions. In a time when it is increasingly difficult to connect in person and experience non-virtually different cultures, WorldFest offers an opportunity to continue to learn and bring cultural intelligence into your own home. Whether it is through the dynamic and fluid concepts of cultural identity, or through learning how to make Hong Kong-style French Toast, it is more important than ever to remain a global individual. To me, becoming culturally aware was through travel and experiencing new cultures first-hand in different countries; however, through communicating with people through the GOLD programme, it is now clear to me it can be so much more than that. WorldFest then allows you to bring multiculturalism into your own home through this new and adaptable online platform. So, take this opportunity to partake in the WorldFest events and to learn new recipes, attend incredibly interesting webinars and talks and perhaps that part of you that is so excited to travel again, will also be reminded of how you can experience culture in your, I’m sure expertly decorated, university room. Remember the importance of not allowing lockdown fatigue to disconnect you from the outside world and, look forward to a time when you can share these skills with more friends and family.