FARMINGTON – Area residents and college students defied Jules Verne Sunday afternoon by completing a world tour in just a few hours at the University of Maine at Farmington’s annual International Festival.

From a feisty Irish jig to a sensual Moroccan belly dance and from sweet jam-filled crepes to spicy chicken curry, more than 150 event-goers had a chance to sample food, clothing and culture from around the world presented by UMF students who come to Maine from 19 foreign countries.

The festival, organized by the college’s International Club, is a chance to “spread multiculturalism and promote understanding and knowledge” said club president Rebecca Deschaine, a UMF senior from Madawaska.

“UMF is a pretty open campus so none of the foreign students have really felt outcasted here. We are all just people. But still, we just want people to remain open minded about other cultures,” she added. “And free food is the best way to really draw them in.”

Students in the club, like Claudia Salgado, had spent the weekend over the stove, preparing native dishes from their home countries to share with peers and community members.

Salgado of Mexico, who teaches Spanish at the university, takes classes and serves as the club’s vice president, said the event helps to knock down a cross-cultural barrier that could alienate foreign students.

“It’s a good chance to let others know what our cultures are all about,” Salgado, wearing a long white flowing gown native to Mexico, said. “It helps us feel more at home. Cooking Mexican food made me feel a lot less homesick. I was happy to taste it.”

Since arriving in the United States, she has “felt her Mexican essence more than ever” but is also quickly learning to embrace culture north of the border. “I like that people can become independent when they are very young here,” she said. “But even though I live in America now, I am always going to be Mexican.”

With America at war, Salgado said she isn’t scared but her family back home worries about her more than even. People welcome her and are always interested in learning about Mexican culture. “I feel safe here,” she said, “especially up here in Farmington.”

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