Upstate International Festival Highlights Cultures

Are you a new resident of the Upstate, or a visitor? If you are looking to explore the Upstate and the world, join Upstate International (UI) as it hosts its month-long International Festival during March. The festival will showcase  several events that include the performing arts, culture, music, and food of various diverse nationalities, cultures, races, and languages represented in the Upstate.

The organization does not have an annual theme, and hence there is no theme for the March festival. Planning and preparation for the events, however, goes on all year long. The organizers collaborate with different event hosts throughout the Upstate.

According to program director Caren Senter, theUI is a nonprofit organization that exists to empower people and businesses of all nations to thrive in the Upstate by connecting them through programs, events, and initiatives that foster the dynamic exchange of international culture and ideas.

The former International Center of the Upstate rebranded to become the UI, using its new logo for promotional materials. The Upstate is becoming increasingly global through foreign companies, immigrants, and visitors. The organization’s goal is to reach the 10 counties of the Upstate byincreasing awareness and providing opportunities for residents to connect through. For anyone interested in international culture, UI has the exciting cultural programs and a variety of services such as language classes, social clubs, books clubs, conversation opportunities and relocation.

UI encourages membership as well as well as volunteers. Members belong to different teams such as the K–12 Art Contest, or University 2 Transform, in which members who have traveled abroad give a two-minute visual presentation about of how they were transformed by their experiences in the foreign country. The Community Book team has a panel discussion when they finish reading an assigned book.

Other regular events happen on a small scale. They include a weekly Downtown Oil & Vinegar Tasting (Mondays in March), and Port City Java coffee cupping (coffee tasting, March 7). On the larger scale, events include the Peking Acrobats (March 6 and 7 at the Peace Center) La Fiesta Gala (April 1 at the Peace Center), and Afghanistan cooking class (March 10 at the Cook’s Station in Greenville), and much more (full calendar of events here).

UI is not limited to being  cultural organization. Its uniqueness is the wide diversity that includes libraries, universities, local restaurants, and religious organizations. Additionally, the UI continuously reaches potential organization, merchants association, through its website and social media.

The UI metamorphosed from its original 1997 International Cultural Alliance to officially become the International Center of the Upstate. This was the vision of its six founders through cultural exchange and experience, education and friendship. 

UI is in the process of becoming an affiliate of the World Affair Councils of America (WACA) the largest nonprofit grassroots organization in the United States. With nearly 400 councils across 40 states, it reaches over half a million people yearly. WACA is dedicated to educating and engaging Americans on global issues, and UI’s affiliation will expand its reach even further into the world beyond the Upstate.

To find out more about the Upstate International becoming a member or volunteer visit, email, or call 864-631-2188.


Photos courtesy of Upstate International. Article by Yvonne Vinson.