By Tom Morris
Last week was Global Week at Cardiff University. Monday featured the Global Village, an event based in a marquee in main building car park, where countries and groups from all over the world had stalls featuring information and even food from their native regions.
First I spoke to Jayati, of India’s YUVA society, and Vani from the international students association. They got me started on the cake trail and told me about their Bollywood film nights. Next up was Ana from Romania, which doesn’t have a society. Ana told me that there was once a Romanian society, but interest tapered off. Sometimes, an official body isn’t needed- she said that Romanian students often prefer to meet different people than those they might have met at home anyway. Her one hot tip for GR readers: visit Romania.
Moving along, I visited the Latin American society, and spoke to vice president Tattiana. I asked her, might we see an intercontinental fracas in this tent later on? She disagreed: the only fights here might be for the last piece of cake. So how will students benefit from joining Latin American society? She said it’s nice to have people you know here in the UK who also speak your language, and share your culture. Is there anyone at Cardiff from that little place in Argentina that speaks Welsh (Y Wladfa)? Tattiana said she wasn’t aware of anyone at Cardiff Uni- but she’d met an Argentine who speaks Spanish with a Welsh twang up at St. Fagans.
The next stall along was Saudi Arabia, with some exotic coffee and a very fancy setup. President Arif and treasurer Adel introduced themselves to me as founders of the society. They told me there’s 400 Saudi students spread out between Cardiff, Cardiff Met and USW. There are even some Swansea Uni students who live in Cardiff as they prefer the company.
Across the way from the grand Saudi stall was a Danish representation led by Catherine, a SOCSI student. Until she was asked to do the stall, she didn’t know any other Danes at Cardiff. She, however, was born and raised in Luxembourg, and had lots of friends going to UK universities- making Cardiff a natural slot. There is no Danish society, but she doesn’t mind- she likes mixing with people of all colours and creeds.
One thing that struck me at the event was the prevalence of people I recognised from Cardiff’s newest sports team, Softball. One, Prodromos, was at the Greek stall next door to Denmark’s. He says there’s more Cypriots than Greeks who tend to come along to their Greek themed nights- every fortnight at Revolution.
Next up, another garishly devised stall, featuring the logos of the Sultanate of Oman. Here I met next year’s VP Education, Fadhila, who had just finished her final presentation of her degree and was evidently pleased with herself. She gave me a history lesson about the split between Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Suddenly, I was face to face with the wheel of morality at the Christian Union stall- where Lydia put the case for cultural relativism straight to my face. I wasn’t quite sure where this discussion came from amongst the light hearted nationalism and cake eating, but it was a refreshing break. Lydia told me how Christianity, as a world religion, helps students from different countries connect with each other over common ground.
Moving round the floor I met Shazia and Maisha, president and secretary of Bangladesh Society. Their society is two years old but a lot of Bangladeshi students join Pakistani or South Asian society because they don’t know about it- so their appearance at the Global Village ought to raise their profile. They hold two socials every month, typically games nights featuring traditional Bangladeshi games and (possibly not so traditionally Bangladeshi) pizza. They recently raised money to support Syria with a competition to see who could eat the most chili.
The food theme is common. After a quick trip to the barren England stall hidden away in the corner like some kind of Brexit metaphor, Kenny from Malaysia says that people are mainly interested in the food. They’ve prepared boxes for sale with actual Malaysian meals rather than just snacks. Malaysians are strong at Cardiff- the society has been running for an amazing twelve years!
The salty salmiakki liquorice at the Finnish stall is definitely not good for my palate. However, Emilia at the stall tells me about gay porn illustrator and national hero Toukio Laaksonen whose art has been featured on Finnish stamps. Finland sounds like a fun country. Another country I’ve always wanted to see is Canada, whose stall is across the way from Finland. They say there’s not many Canadians at Cardiff, and although brits often think of Canada as similar to us they have a different way of life. Canadian students like to join the society as it feels homely.
The German society representatives are happy to see the variety in the tent and, they say, didn’t expect so much dancing. I’m not sure what Irish society were expecting, but their Tayto offerings were much appreciated.
What third year can visit a fair without sniffing out graduate jobs? Not me. The Government have some jobs to give out, but most interesting is the National Commonwealth Office who are looking for a brand ambassador who would travel the world. However it’s not for me- they want current students.
After being shot down like that I needed a dose of familiarity so the last stall I visited was Wales. Why should we be proud to be Welsh? Well, say Leah and Daniel, occasional Gym Gym members, it’s got the oldest language in Europe, a lot of great literature and a decent football team. Let’s stay put for now, then.