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Culturefest: a celebration of countries and cultures

University of Maine

Promising Approaches

  • (7) Encourage and support interactions across cultural differences.
  • (4) Encourage and support activities and student and community organizations that provide opportunities for students to be engaged in their campuses and communities.


Culturefest is an annual event at The University of Maine sponsored by the Office of International Programs and the International Student Association.  The event is held on a Saturday in the Fall, on the University of Maine campus.  It draws 800-1000 community and university attendees.  In a post 9/11 world, the opportunity to meet people from other countries, to learn about their beliefs and cultures, and to promote cross-cultural understanding is more important than ever.

Culturefest provides a day of information tables created by groups of international students.  Students use posters, videos, music, artifacts from home, and other educational items to teach about their countries and cultures.  Other students cook traditional dishes for people to sample.  This is one of the most popular aspects of the day since the opportunity to sample ethnic foods is limited in northern Maine.  One exhibit was a Bedouin tent, with rugs and samovar ready to welcome visitors.   

There is also an area for children’s activities.  School-age children get “passports” and participate in a group of activities from various countries.  Activities include learning songs and dances, writing their names in Chinese are Arabic, and learning children’s games from other countries.  Their passports are stamped to indicate which countries they have visited through their activities. 

The afternoon is devoted to a talent show and style show.  Students sing, dance and play musical instruments representing other cultures.  Such performances include American square dancing, Native American drumming, and hip-hop as well as international musical performances.  The style show highlights traditional costumes, for both daily life and celebrations such as weddings. 

Culturefest, one of the events in our annual “International Week,” brings much needed diversity to the University of Maine.  With over 400 students and scholars from 75 countries, the day teaches visitors about many countries, cultures and walks of life.  It provides an opportunity for new contacts among students and attendees.  Many retired Foreign Service people attend to meet students from countries where they lived and worked.  Exchange students from local high schools meet compatriots, and international students from other University of Maine System institutions and other local colleges get to meet.  Finally, returned study abroad students enjoy participating in their host country events. 

Special Features

Civic Learning Goals

  • Civic knowledge:  Understanding and awareness of  diverse cultures and countries that make up the community in which we live; understanding how America interacts with other countries; understanding America’s place in the world, and valuing our unique higher education system.
  • Civic Skills:  Working cooperatively for effective team building practices;  using public speaking; critical thinking, and active listening to achieve group goals; pursuing an array of cultural, societal, political and religious interests and beliefs.
  • Civic Values/Attitudes:  Willingness to enter dialogue with others about different points of view and to understand diverse perspectives; recognition of different American and international backgrounds; respect for the individual and group identities. 

Contact Information

Karen Boucias, Director
Office of International Programs
5782 Winslow Hall, Room 100
The University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy