Embracing the cultural diversity Weber State University exhibits, the annual international banquet displayed artwork, song, food and dance for community members and students on March 24.
The International Student and Scholar Center at WSU is developing at a fast rate, with close to 400 international students for the 2017-2018 school year. The directors and coordinators of the program are determined to provide assistance for all international students and have been doing so since 1963.
The ISSC worked for months to prepare the banquet and received help from the various departments, such as the communication and athletics department, as well as locally-owned businesses.
Particularly, students from Colleen Packer’s communication senior seminar helped the banquet by volunteering their time and providing gift baskets available for purchase at a silent auction, all while raising funds for Bhutanese refugees.
“It’s a good experience for the students to interact with people from a different culture and to recognize that not everybody is as lucky as they are,” Packer said. “Just helping them [the students] be aware, it’s helped open their eyes.”
Assistant for Weber State’s ISSC, Tiana Witkamp, said the program holds events for more reasons than just celebration and cultural appreciation.
“This event is open to all students, but we especially hope it attracts any that have a desire to know more about all of the wonderful international student cultures that are represented at WSU,” Witkamp said.
The money raised helped fulfill Packer’s original objective, but there was an opportunity to aid the international center as well. Packer also helped to organize and bring up Bhutanese dancers to perform.
The dancers performed that evening, along with a calligraphy demonstration done by students Rikako Iwaoka and Toshiki Yoshida on the front stage, a group of African Burundi drummers who entered the spotlight with their drums stacked on the tops of their head and a Japanese drum group known as Keshin Taiko.
While the performers were dressed in traditional garb, attendees also showed their personal culture by dressing in everything from traditional Japanese kimonos to Arabic thobe and ghotra.
Weber State student India Charlesworth said that while she enjoyed most every aspect of the banquet, particularly the familial aspect, her favorite detail was the food.
“It’s something everyone can come together on because it’s food, and everybody loves food and everybody loves music and dancing,” Charlesworth said, a plate of traditional konafah in her hand, one of the many cultural plates served at the banquet, as she commented. “If nothing else, you can just come and eat.”
With a night of food and performances giving the international student center an opportunity to stand under the spotlight, it was also a way for international students to display their personal cultural diversity to the community.
“I love it when I see the community here and I love to see the students sharing their culture!” said Mary Machira, director of the ISSC. “It helps our campus to be become globalized and brings so much diversity on campus. It’s just letting people know that international students are here and that international students provide such a great learning experience.”
ISSC works with the community every year to help bring the banquet together, alongside various campus sponsors. For those who are interested in helping with the banquet for the following year, they can contact the international student and scholar center at 801-626-6852, and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We belong together and it’s one world for all,” said Machira. “We don’t have to go somewhere far to meet somebody from a different country. We can all intermingle and meet each other and learn from each other.”