If we're going to be successful in any field, we need to think outside the box.

If we're going to discover new things, it's going to be outside of what you and everyone else around you has already studied and, more than likely, also out of our comfort zone.

In such cases, then, where could such nascent things lie? With other people and cultures.

Last Friday, the International Festival was held on Pedestrian Walkway. Compared to years past, it was much more lively, entertaining and fun.

There was no doubt that people thoroughly enjoyed what the festival had to offer. Every aspect contributed to the camaraderie of the gala. Spanning from the cheery African drum and dance ensemble that beckoned people to move to simple yet entrancing beats, to the surprising and fun anime and visual kei dances that Japan brought (and made a few fans squeal in delight!), and everything in-between, the performances allowed people to connect and celebrate together.

The food and drink, which included everything from savory Korean BBQ (bulgogi) to the sweet mango refreshment served by Nepal, satisfied the palates of the expectant and the curious, anchoring them such that they could mingle with others and take a journey around the world in such a small and accessible area.

This festival offered several lessons to those who would learn them.

Thanks to the festival, people were able to see what the world has to offer. They were given a chance to look at the world from a larger perspective and explore the customs that each country and person had to offer.

For example, the continuous trivia game asked if people could match a given capital to a country and vice versa. There were several that were difficult, with people wondering if some were made up on the spot. In a way, whether or not you could answer them correctly evaluated your viewpoint towards the world at large. For those who were not up to date with the world (and possibly didn't listen in geography class), you would get it wrong and make a big fool out of yourself.

One woman, in replying to what the capital of Japan was, replied "Taiwan!" I was extremely disappointed at such an answer, as was the rest of the audience. Having lived overseas for more than half my life, I was able to mentally answer several of the questions and even got to answer one out-loud (What is the Capital of Guam? Hagåtña!).

The festival not only directly tested your knowledge of the world – it also tested your own ability to understand the cultural exchanges of ideas that occurred.

There were many people from many backgrounds, each with his or her own country and customs. Your own attitude and treatment towards people who are different to you illustrates your own affinity to looking at new things and new perspectives.

If you actively tried to avoid people from different cultures, cringing at their different superficial features or clothes, there's a good possibility you're suffering from intolerance. That, in turn, could show that you are not very pro-active, preferring to stay in your comfort zone, and consequently having a stale outlook on others.

Having grown up with a mix of my parents' Filipino-Asian heritage and American culture, I can't say enough about the benefits that this international festival brings.

As I danced with my breakdancing friend onstage for a fun and impromptu performance, I couldn't help but think about what this mixing of cultures and ideas has brought to my life. Spending a majority of my life in different countries and cultures has given me a unique worldview. I've gained not just friends around the world but also a newfound respect for other cultures. Instead of wallowing inside a hole, ignorant of the world, I've been able to expand my horizons and see what lies beyond.

I've been able to see the differences that are always present between people, and yet that doesn't stop me from bridging gaps into different cultures, groups and people.

Keep your mind open, and you'll be sure to have a fulfilling life.

Jan Urbano is a senior in biological sciences. He can be reached at jurbano@utk.edu.