ISCO fest highlights world#039;s cultures

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2003

Troy State University is the university of choice for more than 300 international students and many of them will take part in the ISCO Festival planned for 7 p.m. March 8 at the Adams Center Ballroom.

"The ISCO Festival is an opportunity for our international students to show off their cultures and share their foods with the Pike County community," said Dr. Edward Merkel, advisor to the international students. "And, they are eager to do so."

The ISCO Festival is an highly anticipated event and tickets are at a premium.

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"We can only seat 200 people and the tickets are sold on a first-come basis," Merkel said. "I would encourage anyone who wants a ticket to call early and get one in hand. We have people calling a few days before the festival and they are disappointed."

The ISCO Festival is, first, an international feast.

"The students prepare dishes from their native countries and, to get food like will be served, one would have to go to New York, Atlanta or some other metropolitan area where there are many ethnic groups," Merkel said. "You won't find Turkish or Moroccan restaurants around here."

The international meal will be served buffet-style and will feature main dishes, salads and desserts. The students will serve the meal wearing native costumes, giving the feast a international "flavor."

The food alone is worth the price of the ticket, Merkel said. - $13 for adults and $7 for students. But, there's more.

"The students will entertain with songs and dances from their native countries and some students will play instruments indigenous to their countries," Merkel said. "The entire evening will be entertaining. The ISC Festival will give our international students an opportunity to show their pride in their native countries and give the community a chance to meet and get to know some of these students."

Sven Aelterman is one such student. As the head of ISCO, he is heading up the fevered preparations for this year's events.

"We have people practicing songs, coordinating foods, conducting public relations and setting up audio and visual equipment," he said. "There's a lot of work to do. We've been busy since early January."

According to Aelterman, there's an added incentive to make this year's festival - the group's 21st - even better than ever. As combat troops from the United States are at war in Afghanistan, the Philippines and, soon, Iraq, there is a pressing need for understanding across cultures and nations.

"We hope, with the festival, to show that we international students also have things in common with each other and with people in the United States and we are not enemies because we do things differently," he said.

One way the gathering can do that is by way of food, he said.

"The food, for example, shows that people eat chicken all around the world. It starts with little things like that and allows people to see that things are being done differently all around the world. The insight continues with entertainment," he said.

The funds from the event will go to ISCO and Aelterman said the student group will use the money for presentations on the home countries of the international students.

"We'd like to have people follow up on their encounters with these cultures and come to our country presentations and get a more in-depth look at the nations that the international students are from," he said.