International Week Planning Is Full Steam Ahead

Posted: March 6, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: March 7, 2014 at 6:44 am

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By Sudha Kamath

Students carrying flags

Mason students from around the globe carry flags in the annual International Week flag parade. The event happens April 4-11 this year. Photo by Evan Cantwell

From an international dance competition to a trip back in time, from culture nights to key speakers from around the world, event preparations are under way for George Mason University’s 34th annual International Week April 4-11.

“The students bring the magic,” says Birgit Debeerst, assistant director of programs and outreach for International Programs and Services in University Life. “You can already feel it during the planning meetings. They have endless ideas and energy and inspire the rest of us!”

On Wednesday, April 2, an international café is planned at noon in the Johnson Center, Room 240A, as a warm-up to International Week. An opening ceremony and parade are set for noon on Friday, April 4, on the North Plaza on the Fairfax Campus. The international dance competition will be held at 7 p.m., Monday, April 7, at the Center for the Arts. The closing ceremony will feature international dance competition winners in Dewberry Hall at the Johnson Center. The closing dinner menu will represent cuisine from around the world.

Mason’s international and multicultural student organizations will host culture nights to represent Mason’s diverse student body through food, music, dance and other activities.

International Week Dance Competition

International Week Dance Competition at the Center For the Arts. Photo by Alexis Glenn

Among the culture nights under consideration is one hosted by the Nepalese Student Association. “The main aim of our culture show, Taste of Nepal 2014, is to represent Nepal within the Mason community as well as to the greater Washington metropolitan region,” Mason undergraduate Samikshya “Sami” Sapkota, president of the association. “This would also serve as a great platform for everyone to be exposed to our rich and diverse culture.”

The event, tentatively set for April 12, would feature cultural performances, a fashion show and folk songs. “The campus is very welcoming to multi-ethnic people from all around the world. It is extremely accommodating to those students and has made a positive impact in their academic year,” says Sapkota. “It creates a sense of home and also gives an opportunity for those in the Mason community to explore different cultures and languages in the comfort of the university.”

The Center for International Student Access (CISA), which offers first-year academic programs and intercultural experiences for international students new to Mason, will hold its Student Research Showcase, 5-7 p.m., April 8 in the HUB Ballroom.

“[The showcase] brings a diverse range of research topics surrounding global issues to a wide range of students, faculty and staff – both domestic and international,” says Lindsay Kenton, CISA communications and program support specialist. “With this event, International Week celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity, and diversity in scholarly undergraduate research viewpoints.”

This year’s showcase will feature research on poverty. Each international student in the ACCESS undergraduate pathway program will engage attendees with poster presentations on their chosen topics. But the showcase is not all work and no play. “We’ll also have international desserts for everyone to enjoy, which are always a big hit,” says Kenton.

The annual Polyglot Performances, set for 5 to 8 p.m., April 8 in the Johnson Center Cinema, will feature music, poetry and prose in various languages. “The event showcases linguistic diversity and multicultural understanding with performances in languages offered by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages,” says Sufumi So, an assistant professor and language coordinator in Japanese Studies. “The performances are each directed by faculty members and feature plays, music, poetry and the like performed in different languages by Mason students.”

Performance descriptions are offered in English and the languages of the performances. The language groups confirmed for the 2014 show are Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. “The event celebrates the realities of multilingualism as the word ‘polyglot’ implies,” says So. “The event also helps to build interaction among faculty and students who collaborate together in and/or outside the classroom to prepare the performances.”

New this year: the 2014 show will begin with a workshop on the use of drama in teaching foreign languages. “Through this additional feature, the attendees will also become better informed of how beneficial the creative use of a foreign language could be to the learning of that language,” says So.

Preps are underway as the Japanese group works on a play based on a legend, while the Spanish group has been meeting twice a week to practice a dance to an upbeat Latin American song.

Talks are also scheduled for April 8 on the Fairfax Campus featuring Dina Rizk Khoury, author of “Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance”; and Makrina Gudiel, Guatemalan human rights activist and coordinator of the Network of Guatemalan Women Human Rights Defenders.

“We are excited to bring Makrina to Mason to share her personal experience fighting for justice in Guatemala,” says Jo-Marie Burt, director of Mason’s Latin American Studies program, associate professor of public and international affairs, and co-director of the Center for Global Studies. “Her story reverberates beyond Central America as countries across the world seek to address past human rights violations, end impunity and construct rule of law.”

Also on April 8, at the Arlington Campus, the School of Public Policy Student Association will host Africa in Motion: Context, Culture and Continuity, highlighting cultural exhibitions and performances, panel discussions and a closing session with representatives from various embassies.

International Week’s Decades Party this year showcases the 1990s. The event is organized by the Global Crossings Living Learning Community, the Office of International Programs and Services and Housing and Residence Life. The party, set for 5-7 p.m., April 9, in the Johnson Center Bistro, will explore the history and culture of several countries during the ’90s, with music, games and prizes.

Mason’s global influences are growing: international student enrollment has grown to nearly 2,000 and  125 countries are represented. The 10 countries with the highest representation are India, China, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh and Turkey.

Write to Sudha Kamath at skamath@gmu.edu

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