2nd Lt. Thorin Jean, a Basic Officer Leader Course student here (right), and 1st Sgt. Mario Jeri, Company C, 31st Engineer Battalion, learn the secrets of making fresh pasta from Italian Capt. Innocenzo Crispo at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Thorin Jean, a Basic Officer Leader Course student here (right), and 1st Sgt. Mario Jeri, Company C, 31st Engineer Battalion, learn the secrets of making fresh pasta from Italian Capt. Innocenzo Crispo at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
One of the most popular tables at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House seemed to be The Philippines.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – One of the most popular tables at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House seemed to be The Philippines. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
Five-year-old Regan Batey, daughter of 35th Engineer Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Crystal Batey, tries a Romanian dessert at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Five-year-old Regan Batey, daughter of 35th Engineer Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Crystal Batey, tries a Romanian dessert at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
2nd Lt. Timothy Skinner, a Basic Officer Leader Course student here, attempts to write a phrase in Taiwanese at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Timothy Skinner, a Basic Officer Leader Course student here, attempts to write a phrase in Taiwanese at the Know Your World event Friday at Nutter Field House. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Famous author and Missourian Mark Twain once wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

The Fort Leonard Wood community was given the opportunity to travel to more than 40 countries on Friday evening — all without leaving Nutter Field House — when the International Military Student Office hosted their 20th Know Your World event.

While the pandemic made holding large, in-person events like this impossible — the last Know Your World event took place in 2019 — the three-year wait seemed to make the event even more popular, according to Julissa Craven, IMSO’s field studies program manager and a key organizer of the event.

“This is bigger than in 2019,” she said. “We have so many international students here — 43 countries represented here tonight — and they come to learn about our culture. We want everyone to learn about their cultures as well.”

In addition to the event being bigger this year, Craven said they also tried to organize the tables more efficiently.

“We separated the tables by regions to make it easier — there’s a section for South America; one for Africa; one for Europe; there’s Asia and there’s the Caribbean — and we have a map set up, so people can see where the country is,” she said.

As in years past, Craven said many of the students chose to use the language of food as a teaching tool.

“We had more students cook this year,” she said. “It was more of a competition for them because they wanted to have the best. So, it was more of, ‘Mine’s going to be better than yours.’ To be honest, though, they all did an amazing job, and I couldn’t pick one table that was the best because they were all great.”

Tunisian Lt. Amine Ghraibia is from the city of Tabarka, on the Mediterranean coast, near the border with Algeria. He is two months into a six-month stay at Fort Leonard Wood while he studies military engineering, and his table was one of the first people visited as they entered the building — the food he prepared was gone within about 20 minutes, he said apologetically.

“I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so many people, but seeing it now, it’s great,” he said of the two-hour event. “It’s a good opportunity to know a lot of countries. I’ve been just to Paris, Germany and the U.S.A., so being here made me know a lot of other countries.”

Ghraibia said travelling can “make your life longer.”

“It makes me happy — I love travelling,” he said. “If you travel, you will get a better view of the world and be happier.”

After he completes his studies here, Ghraibia — a civil engineer back home — said he next plans to earn a doctoral degree in Germany. Until he leaves Fort Leonard Wood, though, he said he will “enjoy being here to the maximum.”

“Every weekend, I plan something,” he said, noting the Lake of the Ozarks as his favorite American destination so far. “I love this place.”

Making their way through the European section of tables in the middle of the room was the Heyward family. Capt. Chris Heyward is a Military Police Basic Officer Leader Course instructor here, and he brought his wife, Brianna, and their eight-year-old twins Cairo and Chloe to the event.

“I think this is awesome,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see this and see so many international students — I had no idea there were so many here on post.”

Brianna pointed out one thing she learned — Kosovo is the newest country in Europe.

“I’ve learned so much about these countries,” she said. “I had no idea some of them existed. People are learning a lot about the world around them. Just being able to give our kids this experience and enrich them in this way is great — they’re excited.”

At the IMSO information table, visitors could pick up a quiz to take with them as they visited the various tables. They could also find more information on what’s called the Friendship Ambassador Program.

Craven said the program pairs the international military students temporarily studying here with volunteer civilians in the Fort Leonard Wood and surrounding communities. The goal of the program is to educate the students about American culture through hands-on participation in daily activities, which can range from hiking and fishing trips to tourism — or a simple trip to an American grocery store.

Anyone looking for more information on the program — or how to volunteer — is encouraged to call 573.563.2662 or 0068.

From Panama originally, Craven has a unique perspective on the value of immersing in other cultures.

“I was able to have the American dream,” she said. “I can say that. I came over here with my parents, a suitcase and the clothes on my back, and look at me now. I hope that from this experience today, that everyone who came here — whether they are Americans or internationals — comes away with another way to meet new people and not see it as a challenge. I hope everyone can learn to feel comfortable around someone from another country.”