What does UNF know about international culture? A lot, actually.

Alan Vargas

This article was originally published in the Fall 2018 “Culture of UNF Issue”. 

The University of North Florida is a sleepy school near the beach of a sprawling southern city. Jacksonville is home to a diverse population that sends its children to the University each year to add to the rich melting pot that is UNF.

The military has brought many people from far and wide to the River City. Once people get to Jacksonville, many don’t want to leave the weather or the beaches, so they end up staying and eventually send their kids to school at UNF. In fact, Jacksonville is home to the largest Filipino population in Florida, thanks to the many regional military bases. UNF’s own Filipino Student Association (FSA) just celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. Elsa Obenza, a senior majoring in music technology and production, as well as the new FSA president, talked about different events coming up in the fall semester and told the Spinnaker about “Ate Kuyo Ading.”

“It’s kind of how the Greek sororities and fraternities have Bigs and Littles, that’s our version of that,” she explained, “It encapsulates and really fosters the idea of ‘Kapamilya,’ which means family.”

In fact, family was a theme that kept coming up with everyone the Spinnaker spoke to, regardless of where they’re from. Nadia Searl, a senior psychology major and President of the Caribbean Student Association, discussed the longing for family that has brought a lot of students to join the CSA.

“We’re having an influx of minority students coming onto campus and most didn’t have a cultural club in high school,” Searl explained. “When they get to college, they are exposed to so many new cultures and people from their own culture. It’s a very important part of developing your identity.”

Searl also shared that the Black Student Union, the Latin American Student Organization, the Asian Students In Alliance and CSA are planning on collaborating on different events in the future.

“We’re talking about getting together for different discussion nights, cultural talks and events like J’ouvert and Carnival.” Searl described. “‘J’ouvert’ is the mass or party that starts off Carnival. It starts at dusk the night before and goes on all night then it ends at sunrise when Carnival officially starts.”

Carnival is the annual celebration that kicks off Lent for many of the Catholic populations of the Caribbean and Latin America.

The other major theme that was touched on by each member of our international culture was the welcoming nature.

Milesh Patel, a junior history major and President of ASIA, told the Spinnaker that the goal of his group is to spread Asian culture and educate students across campus.

“People have this notion that you have to be Asian to join our club, but that’s not true. We are open to everybody. We try to provide a way to educate students and showcase Asian culture to everyone on campus,” Milesh said.“We like to spread our culture through different events, like bringing Asian artists and cooking authentic Asian food.”

UNF boasts a very strong English Language Program, which brings in hundreds of international students each year. Klaudia Ndreu, from Albania, went through the program and is now a junior majoring in International Business at UNF. She told the Spinnaker about the strong international presence in the ELP.

“My roommates are from Russia, Venezuela and Kazakhstan. Each week we get together with the other students for game nights or different events around town.”

UNF even has a group dedicated to the relationship between international students and the rest of the University. The International Ospreys President, Nahum Michel, came to UNF from Haiti and shared why he thinks diversity is a positive attribute of UNF.

“The presence of students from other countries exposes many students to new ideas and cultures that creates this great diversity around campus,” he said. “It’s not huge yet but it’s definitely here and it’s very passionate. The different groups are working hard to organize great events and activities to share the great culture we have with everyone on campus.”

Overall, the international culture here at UNF has strong leadership and a bright future on campus.

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