by Quinn Welsch
Arm yourself with culture. Whatcom Community College’s International Night is upon us.
International Night is a celebration of student diversity and cultural awareness and hailed as one of the biggest nights of Whatcom’s academic year. An array of students, faculty and community members are expected to represent their culture through entertainment and cuisine.
“Everybody knows ‘Waka Waka,’” says Irma Nugrahant, a 23-year-old grant student from Indonesia, referring to a song by Columbian artist Shakira. She, and eight other members of the Community College International Program are performing a dance routine blending African, Arabic, Hispanic and Asian culture. “We are trying to find a song that you probably know.”
The dancers agreed the song choice may be American pop, but anything is on the table, including the choreography. The students will be wearing traditional outfits from their native countries. Some are also participating in the International Night fashion show.
Though some of the dancers say they are nervous, Roshelle Govender, a South African of Indian descent, said that they are comfortable with each other.
“We have more confidence together when we are in a group,” Nugrahant said.
The group’s performance will be far different from their formal presentations about their home-countries.
“Most of us are not dancers, so it’s going to be awkward,” said Adit Putra, 25.
“We’ll do something funny, don’t worry,” said Ashit Mandal, 20.
Ulli Schraml, International Friendship Club advisor and special program coordinator, describes this year’s lineup as “a showcase of the world.” Schraml said that performances will include acts from student clubs as well as individuals. Performances include drinking songs from the German Club, bagpipe performances, klezmer music, a Japanese band with the name “John Toof,” country songs from singer (and instructor) Laura Overstreet, and a Sikh martial arts/dance combo from dance group, Lethal Vibe.
Schraml, who is the organizer this year, says the event is organized chaos. “I’m just trying to guide people,” he said. Anyone is allowed to perform and no auditions are required.
“It’s a really dynamic and fun event with amazing food,” said Iris Metzgen-Ohlswager, an advisor for international students at Whatcom. “It fills the auditorium every time.”
Though Schraml said the event is small compared to other multicultural celebrations, he added that the event has outgrown the space available.” Schraml said they usually attract more than 400 people.
“It opens a window to the rest of the world,” Schraml said. “The idea is to let people know about other things in the world. To get to know each other and start talking.”
International Night is followed by International Education Week. This is the twenty-first year the International Friendship Club has hosted it. The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on March 1 in the Syre Student Center and ends at 9 p.m. There is a $3 fee unless food is brought as a contribution.
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