A Bridge to International Cultures

The Office of International Student Affairs (ISA) at Kent State University has a new program that connects students with different cultures and countries through interactive experiences with food, music, dance, games, and presentations.

Khushi Patel leading the presentation about Rangoli, an art form, at the World Bridge India event.
Khushi Patel at the World Bridge event on February 28.

The World Bridge program was created by the International Community Assistants within ISA. Ashton Leigh (they/them), director of ISA, tasked the student workers team with planning a program different from what was already offered within the university.

ISA used to host the Res Airways events where international students taught about their home countries through information in a PowerPoint, food, and discussions. Leigh mentioned that the idea behind the need for this new program originated from feedback from students who wanted more engaging events while learning about other cultures.

“The idea for this program was to engage people in learning about the world, but in a way they could actually be hands-on,” Leigh said.

Haydn Colucci, a senior French major and an International Community Assistant who has worked with ISA since the spring of 2021, mentioned that the student workers team rebranded the Res Airways events to have the presenters be more involved.

At the beginning of the spring of 2024, the office recruited international students to lead the activities in each event planned for the semester.

Kent State Indian student next to a Rangoli art of a colorful peacock created by a group at the World Bridge event.
Rangoli of a peacock created by a group of students.

These students could choose to teach a traditional art form, how they celebrate a holiday, a game, a dance form, or any aspect of their culture that allows others to participate.

Leading up to the event, the office works with the students to submit recipes for catering, order supplies for activities, and market the event.

Colucci mentioned that brainstorming the event’s name was the most challenging part of its creation. “We wanted to represent what it was and that it was different from the previous event, but at the same time, still an opportunity to learn about other cultures,” she said.

She added that Lisa Onyao, an International Community Assistant and graduate student in the Emerging Media and Technology program, came up with the “World Bridge” name, and the team agreed it was the right choice.

On February 28, the first World Bridge event was held in the Pepsi Leadership Center on the second floor of the Kent Student Center, where Khushi Patel from India taught others about Rangoli, an art form based on colored powder.

“An interesting thing about it is that these are temporary art pieces. There’s all this work that goes into them, but they blow away,” Leigh said. “It is much harder than it looks, but it’s really fun.”

Alejandro Hurtado Viñas leading the presentation about Spanish card games at the World Bridge Spain event.
Alex Hurtado Viñas (left) next to Lisa Onyao at the World Bridge event on March 13.

Over 30 people attended the inaugural event, and while most of them were from India, students from other countries were also present.

“It was nice to see people find joy in the things they have grown up doing but also watch them teach other people,” Leigh said.

On March 13, the event included Alejandro (Alex) Hurtado Viñas (he/she/they), an exchange student from Spain, teaching others how to play Spanish card games, such as Brisca, Chinchón, and Cinquillo.

Viñas loves tabletop games and card games, and since they wanted to share part of their culture with Kent State, they thought the World Bridge event was a great opportunity. They mentioned that Spanish cards are different from the usual French poker cards people might be used to and that there is a wide variety of Spanish card games.

“I thought that if people liked these games, they could share them with their friends and maybe even try to look them up more,” Viñas said. “To this day, some of my friends are asking me to play more Spanish card games.”

At another World Bridge event on April 10, Leyla Askerova, a Russian student, taught others about a traditional children’s game, general information, and trying a Russian dish called Blini.

Leyla Askerova leading the presentation about Russia at the World Bridge event.
Leyla Askerova at the World Bridge event on April 10.


The last World Bridge event of the semester will be held on April 24 from 3-5 p.m. in the Pepsi Leadership Center and will be open to all countries. International students will have the opportunity to share games and activities from their cultures.

Everyone is welcome to attend the event, and Leigh mentioned that people should not be nervous about trying something new. “People are learning together in a welcoming and supportive group,” they said.

Colucci mentioned that attending the event is a great way to meet new people from all around the world and learn about new cultures.

“Something great about Kent State is that we have so many international students on campus that come from all corners of the globe,” she said. “[With World Bridge,] you get to play games that maybe you wouldn’t have a chance at other events. It is something different every time.”

The World Bridge events will continue in the fall, and the office will recruit students at the beginning of the semester.

POSTED: Monday, April 22, 2024 12:42 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024 09:54 AM
Eduardo Strobel
Office of International Student Affairs