The hospitality department brings around 3,000 people to LAU Beirut on a special evening to enjoy U.S. brands and culture.
“This was only our second such event, but its success has spurred us toward hosting one annually,” says Bassem Slim, professor of hospitality at the Adnan Kassar School of Business, following “Discover USA at LAU.”
Four years ago Slim founded the student-based hospitality club that organized the event in collaboration with the U.S. embassy. He led a team of eight students to bring together dozens of American brands that reflected the diversity of the U.S. and its various states.
“We dubbed the area with all the fashion brands ‘5th Avenue New York,’ and designed the Texas area to look like a ranch, complete with a barbeque, horses and cowboys,” says Slim, describing but two of the many areas that spread across the LAU Beirut campus on the night of May 29.
Classic American cars invaded the grounds by the upper gate, celebrating Detroit’s long history of automobile manufacturing, while women in feathered masks served jambalaya and radiated the festive mood of New Orleans opposite Sage Hall. “The food has been great,” enthused college student Hala Jaafar, one of around 3,000 guests who enjoyed the generosity of many a stall handing out free food throughout the five-hour event. “There’s so much variety, it’s a lot of fun. I’ll definitely come next year.”
Ideas are already in the pipeline, Slim reveals. “We’re challenging ourselves further for next year as we will be representing five countries of the European Union,” the organizer explains. Since the first incarnation of this event, held two years ago, celebrated Italy, the Mediterranean state is not likely to be among the five represented. “I’m thinking Germany, France, Spain, perhaps Greece,” says Slim, who plans to meet with the E.U. delegation soon. “We’ll have to start planning from now. This year’s event was eight months in the making.”
While the experience of planning such an event is of great value to students of hospitality management, second year student Dana Ladki said her main motivation for getting involved was fun. “We don’t have any grades riding on this event. We just all worked together for the fun of it.”
While Ladki manned one of the many food stalls, Naim Shibo was promoting fashion brand Abercrombie and Fitch. “I love American products. This event is so unique and a great opportunity for us to showcase our products,” said the company representative. “I wish they’d host one every month. It has been so much fun.”
Visitors of all generations, many LAU alumni and their families, enjoyed the plethora of activities and areas on offer. Some lounged in the lobby areas erected by Hilton and Four Points hotels, while others ate chicken wings and watched American wrestling projected on a giant screen in the open air Boston sports bar. Some played poker in Las Vegas, while others took photographs beside the Statue of Liberty. All enjoyed a unique experience within the comfort and warmth of the LAU community.