The American University of Sharjah (AUS) held its semi-annual Club Fair on campus last week. The two-day fair, in association with Power Hit Radio and sponsored by Red Bull, reflected the vibrant multicultural campus, giving students an opportunity to join in any of the 47 clubs and seven departments participating.
The AUS Student Centre is transformed into what resembles a marketplace for two days every semester. From 10am to 4pm resident DJs from the campus station, Power Hit Radio, spin tunes of all kinds, offering visitors a go at the turntables in return for a small donation to charity.
Aromas engulf the hall as 26 cultural clubs offer tastes of their national sights, sounds and flavours. The fair gives AUS culture clubs a chance to represent their countries' heritages and cultures to curious students, giving them a brief history lesson while sampling delicious food.
"This fair gives people a chance to ask questions about various cultures and learn things they never knew before, as well as taste our national dishes," said Abdul Nasser Al Sha'ali, 20, president of the Emirati Club.
"This fair is a way for our club to recruit new members and represent what we do to new and returning students who have never heard of us," said Setareh Tofighi, 23, treasurer of the Iranian Club.
"The Palestinian Cultural Club (PCC) is a way for Palestinians outside the country to communicate with each other. Our club and our participation in this fair help us keep our culture alive, as Palestine is being wiped off the world map," said Firas Ebrahim, 19, a member of the PCC.
The Turkish and Russian clubs made their debut at this event. "I didn't even know there were Russians at our university," said Ala' Sulaiman, 22, a chemical engineering student.
Fawad Khan, 20, a finance student, was at the fair to support his friends and sample different cultures. "I think this is a brilliant event as it is not only fun but educational. I have African friends but never knew the difference between Somali and Sudanese cultures. I thought they were the same because they are all 'African', but they aren't. There is more to it than that," said Khan. "It's the same with Indian and Pakistani cultures. People think they are identical, but even their cuisines are different," said Khan.
It is at the Club Fair where these opportunities for understanding bring students of many nationalities and cultures together in harmony.
Twenty-one activity clubs offered students a chance to find out about the group and sign up and participate. Three new activity clubs - the book club, maths club and accounting and finance club - took part.
Notes spoke to Saleha Irfan, editor of The Leopard, the AUS campus newspaper. Saleha, 21, is studying mass communications and journalism and was at the fair to encourage student participation.
"The Leopard is the voice of AUS students. We cover all happenings on campus, from small to major events and welcome all contributions by students," said Saleha. The monthly paper currently consists of 10 members and has been in circulation since AUS opened.
The AUS Debate Club also set up a booth. The club was established five years ago by 'an AUS student to promote public speaking. The club holds annual autumn debate championships and participates in debates at various universities.
"Debaters are coached and advised by lecturers on best practice methods of public speaking as well as the rules and regulations of competitions. They are then given a choice of three topics to debate by the club's president," said Fatima Tarek, 19, the Debate Club's media coordinator.
The upcoming debate championships will be held at the University of Wollongong in Dubai and students are encouraged to sign up.
The Photography Club is responsible for photographing all campus and university events. Competitions are held three times a semester on a chosen theme and participants are given one month to complete the assignment and submit their entries. The club also organises field trips and holds workshops. "We give two lectures a semester held by either club members or faculty members to give photography tips and tricks," said Haneen Al Hassan, 21, president of the club.
Power Hit Radio is more than just a station. It brings the AUS community together for fun and laughter. Founded five years ago by an AUS student, Rami Jaber, the station grew outside campus walls to host the 'Battle of the DJs'. It now hosts successful events on campus - Karaoke Night and AUS Got Talent, in imitation of a popular television talent show America's Got Talent.
The competition is judged by the executive committee of Power Hit Radio. Competitors get a chance to showcase their dancing, singing, comedic and instrumental talents.
Notes spoke to the Community Services Department - one of the seven departments at the fair. The department hoped to encourage student participation in voluntary work. It holds annual bake sales on campus and sends volunteers to aid in community work - last year it was the Sharjah Museum.
"We are holding a charity marathon on February 28 and the proceeds of ticket sales will go towards the support of children with diabetes. Students from all schools and universities are invited to take part," said Anna Antar of the Student Employment Office.
The Judicial Affairs Department had a booth at the fair as "the main purpose of the ... department is to implement the rules and regulations of AUS" and ensure they are communicated clearly to the students, said Juliet Coutinho, department manager.
It also offers social services, advice, mentoring and teaches how to solve conflicts through mediation.