By Tina Kalenits
Beads, masks and dancing filled the Ohio Room of Kilcawley Center with Youngstown State University students and faculty celebrating Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday.
The World Languages Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball consisted of diverse food, music, games and trivia from various cultures. The ball was organized by the Spanish, Italian, German and French language clubs.
The Mardi Gras holiday is represented differently worldwide and is recognized the day before the season of Lent begins.
Alyssa Falcone, co-adviser for the Italian Club, said the world language clubs recruit students taking a foreign language at YSU and get them involved in the different clubs.
“They’re learning about the German culture, French, Italian, Spanish, and there are many different countries represented because it covers many regions around the world,” she said. “[Students] are learning about history, language and literature as well.”
Students are encouraged to speak in foreign languages during the event to experience the diverse cultures as much as possible, according to Falcone.
“We typically don’t get together as all four groups at one time. We have our own club, our own events and meetings, but we rarely [are] all together,” she said.
Falcone said students are not just learning one language but many others through combining the cultures into one celebration.
“We get to share a little bit about our own histories, our family histories, where we come from, how we’ve arrived and a little better understanding of the world around us,” she said.
Rachel Faerber-Ovaska, a French and German professor at YSU, said the event was a student-based initiative and the students brought the idea to her attention.
“When you learn a foreign language, you’re creating a new identity with a new language, so we’re here celebrating that,” she said.
“The reason we chose it is because it’s celebrated in many different cultures, so we created a masquerade ball where all the world languages can come together,” Faerber-Ovaska said.
“[The masquerade ball] is important because it’s an opportunity for the students who study different languages to get to know each other and work together and to feel like that positive identity as well,” she added.
Francesca Byrne, a sophomore business major, said the event was a way to get to know students who speak other languages.
“It brings people together of different cultures, and I think it’s a cool way of seeing how other people celebrate and live their life and celebrate Mardi Gras in religious and nonreligious aspects,” she said.
Students were able to understand other cultures as a whole.
“You can find similarities, but you can also learn from the differences … from these different cultures,” she added.
Falcone said the world language clubs are planning more events this semester, including a boxing tournament.
“I wish there are more events like this, maybe a foreign film festival as well, where we have every club talking about a movie and explaining it and what it means to their culture and language studies,” she said.