A venue for collective delicacies from East to West, the international food festival is one of those rare campus phenomena where foreigners get a chance to display their cultural identity through their respective cuisines. Students take on the mantle of cooking the finest dishes from their homelands and present them for all to indulge. The annual event is hosted by KISA which partakes in rallying the participating students and making sure everything goes according to plan. The KAIST Herald sat down with Mr. Wajahat Tahir, from KISA, to talk about their preparations for the upcoming event.
Please start with a brief self-introduction for our readers. And, tell us about your position at KISA.
My name is Wajahat Tahir. I’m a Mechanical Engineering major and at the moment, I’m the President of KISA.
When is the food going to be held this semester? What should students expect this time?
As far as the update on the event is concerned, we are having the Food Festival on May 27. This semester we’re going with a two-way approach because we’re introducing new projects as well and working on initiatives to connect students with each other and the school administration. As you know, there was a strawberry party about a month prior from now. We introduced new changes to the strawberry party in a way that made it more interesting by not just distributing food but also trying to bring people together and group them so that there’s more interaction and make the event something that affects people. We also invited many Korean students to our event and worked with the Undergraduate Student Council to promote it with their faction of the student body.
So regarding the food festival, the event is not just about the food, it also features other performances and a stage for the international community to display their cultural identity within KAIST. This time round, we’re trying to focus more on diversity. There were numerous countries in the previous festivals. But this time, we’re trying to reach out to country representatives from different countries and push for a more diverse and global atmosphere at the event. We’re also trying to involve a large number of exchange students so that more countries will be involved.
Then, have you received new entries so far? Do you have new countries that are preparing their cuisine for the first time?
Our application process has just started. It opens on May 11. So, we’ll be in a position to say which countries will be participating by next week or so. We are expecting a large number of applicants this semester.
Can you give our readers an update on the progress of preparing the event? Have you started preparing for the day of the event itself? If so, how far have you come? What setbacks or perhaps, inconveniences have you faced?
Until now, our public relations team has been handling most of the tasks. They are in the process of trying to reach out to different people from different countries and different universities. So, thus far, it has been about creating more awareness about the event and telling people to participate and be part of the experience.
From what I remember of last year’s food festival, there was a sort of a performance and a competition, in addition to the food display. Are you going for something similar this semester?
Yes, we are obviously planning to have such a thing this semester as well. We are recommending the country representatives to try and have a performance in addition to the food. And, I feel that’s better because you can utilize the potential of gathering all these people from different backgrounds. Also, competition brings out the best in people so, we’ll try to create a moderately competitive environment at the event, with various prizes for the winners of course.
With regards to what you said about your partnerships with other universities, to which schools have you reached out to up to now? During the last food festival, Chungnam National University and University of Science and Technology had sent a few students over to participate.
And yes, we are more than open to have students from other institutions get involved in our event. But, this time round, we are planning to contact other universities as well. We have already sent out invitations to students at Yonsei and Seoul National University. However, it all depends on the number of people who do want to come because it would be hard for us to arrange transportation and what not for just a handful of people. So, there is a minimum number of people to participate. There’s no fixed minimum threshold but it all depends on their response.
Moreover, last semester's event also got news coverage on a local TV channel. What are you planning to make this year’s event better than the last year’s?
The food festival is something that’s already popular in campus. Moreover, the Daejeon International Center has always been interested in the food festival. It is an opportunity for them to cultivate the international image of the city. KISA has formed a partnership with them. And, whatever we do, we inform them. Plus, we are going to go the extra mile this time: we are putting the additional effort to involve more people, more universities, and a more global representation, while at same time, trying to build a competitive spirit with the performances at the event.