Saying that KAIST is diverse is a bit of an understatement. The institute has put in a lot of effort to ensure that there is no shortage of people from every continent here in our international community. Look left and there’s someone from Europe; look right, there’s a person from Africa. There’s no end to the different types of people you can meet and talk with and no doubt, since they’re from different countries, you have tons of questions to ask about where they’re from, what their traditions are like, how their food tastes, and the list goes on.
Well, unfortunately not everyone comes prepared with a PowerPoint about their country.
Talking about one’s country can be a bit difficult with just words alone. For example, you can try your hardest to talk about your favorite dish, but it just isn’t the same without a picture or better yet, the real thing. And your knowledge alone may not do your country justice as you could be missing a lot of details that would really help cement the picture of your country and culture in someone’s mind. If only there was an easy, simple, and interactive way to learn about a country.
Fortunately, there is: it’s KAIST ONE (Overseas Networking Exchange)!
KAIST ONE started in 2007 as a way for small groups of students to demonstrate the various facets of their country in an hour-long presentation. The event occurs every semester and around four to five countries present over the span of three months. Each presentation explains a country’s key points, such as its geography, cuisine, and history, but the best parts are the live performances and the food that comes afterwards. They don’t just tell you about their country, they bring it to you.
This month, the first country to be featured is the nation of Tajikistan. A country in Central Asia, Tajikistan has an extensive history as it was a land that was a part of various empires throughout time. It is the land of many influential people including Jalal Rumi, described as the “most popular” and “bestselling” poet in America and Avicenna, known by biologists for being the author of The Canon in Medicine. The nation has a rich culture and various edifices, both ancient and modern that are second to none in the world.
Tajikistan is a country that feels big. The land is home to countless mountains; 93% of the land is mountainous and is home to the Pamir Mountains and Ismoli Somoni Peak, more than 7000 meters high. The nation has buildings of terrific scale both old and new. The Hulbuk, the Hissar Fortress, and the Khujand are huge historic bastions that give off a royal presence. Modern wonders such as the National and Navruz Palace are equally imposing splendors with a pure royal white aesthetic and grandeur. The Flag Park houses an enormous flag which used to be the biggest and tallest flag in the world. Tajikistan may not be the biggest nation but it certainly doesn’t feel small.
There is also a strong theme of unity in the culture. Everything from their sports to their food invokes a sense of doing everything together. It was really best seen with the explanation of Nowruz, the Persian New Years and one of the biggest holidays in Tajikistan. There are various meals eaten on that day. For example, there is Sumanak, a dish made of wheat juice and water. It’s prepared in a group and shared with everyone; it is accompanied by various shows, songs, and dances. With food comes play, and the Tajiks engage in many activities such as dances or telling of folklore around fires in small little groups, or the wild sport of Buzkashi where teams try to drag a goat carcass across a goal. Tajikistan is a country that stands together in all aspects of life.
There’s a lot more to say here, but really the best way to learn is to go there in person. Tajikistan is only the first of many KAIST ONEs this semester. In November, the countries of Nigeria and Costa Rica will be presenting their slice of culture on the November 5 and 19, respectively, and in December, KAIST ONE will be wrapped up with Turkey on the December 3. There’s much to see, learn, and eat, so take the time for at least one of these KAIST ONEs and see what the world has to offer.