UNK festival celebrates cultures, diversity

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - International students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney are sharing their cultures with the community through food, dance and music.

Students represented ten countries at the 42nd annual Scott D. Morris International Food and Cultural Festival Sunday.

One of the groups who performed at the festival was a mix of exchange students and people in the community. UNK's Taekwondo team and the Nebraska School of Martial Arts teamed up for the performance.

"It was a great experience for me, because I am an exchange student from South Korea," said Eun Huie Cho, a member of UNK's Taekwondo team. "I want more opportunities to take part of these ceremonies."

One of the members of the Nebraska School of Martial Arts is an assistant professor at UNK.

Sonja Bickford is originally from Finland. Her kids also performed at the festival with the Martial Arts and Taekwondo group. She was the one who brought the groups together for the first time.

Bickford said they went through hours of practice, all to celebrate diversity and culture.

"Growing up between Europe and the United States, I think it's important not only for my family, but also my martial arts family and the community to see how and what each culture has to offer, and how we can celebrate that together," Bickford said.

Tracy Falconer, assistant director in UNK's Office of International Education, helped coordinate the event.

Falconer said the school has students from 50 countries around the globe. She said they encourage their exchange students to bring their hobbies to the school, and into the community.

"They're leaving their home countries. That doesn't mean they have to leave the things that they love behind. So when they come here we help them get connected to maybe some community organizations or other students that may have the same interests as they do," Falconer said.

The combined Taekwondo and Martial Arts group said they'd like to work together on another performance at some point in the future.