International Week Highlights Many Cultures

Posted: April 14, 2014 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: April 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

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By Sudha Kamath

International Week Flag Parade at the North Plaza at the Fairfax Campus

International Week Flag Parade on the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn

International Week  is always a highlight of the academic year at George Mason University, where there is an international student population of 2,000 hailing from 125 countries, as well as thousands more American students who identify strongly with their cultural heritage.

George Mason’s 34th annual celebration kicked off April 4 with a parade of students displaying flags and costumes from their native countries. Students marched to the George Mason statue, putting their best moves forward for the International Cupid Shuffle hosted by Mason’s hip-hop dance team, Urbanknowlogy 101.

And Birgit Debeerst, assistant director of programs and outreach in the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS), says if the number of groups who checked out flagpoles for the parade is a measurement of success, “I think we are on the right track…. This year the last one was checked out at 11:59 a.m., one minute before the start of the opening ceremony and celebration,” she says. “We are planning to purchase more flagpoles for next year!”

Mason’s Indian, Hispanic and Arab student associations captured the top three prizes in the popular International Dance Competition  at the Center for the Arts, which also featured performances from Mason’s Ashanti Belly Dance Club, Hellenic Society and Mason student Kania Maniasa. The dancers’ motivation and passion is captured in the video below produced by Mason’s Creative Services.

The Confucius Institute at Mason once again presented a cultural workshop about China, this year a traditional Chinese tea in the institute’s Chinese Reading Room. “These free cultural workshops are designed to make Chinese culture come alive for participants,” says Lucia Sedwick Claster, the institute’s deputy director. “Our programs feature hands-on activities where people can actually make a Chinese craft or taste something Chinese, like the tea.”

The School of Public Policy Student Association for the first time hosted “Africa in Motion: Context, Culture and Continuity” at the Arlington Campus. About three dozen participants watched a documentary film, followed by a discussion about the future of Africa and its challenges. They watched a performance by Mason School of Dance professor Kukuwa Nuamah and her students. Then the association officially opened the “Africa in Context” photo exhibit at Founders Art Gallery, featuring photos of Africa taken by public policy students. The exhibit will be open until April 21.

International Week parade

Photo by Alexis Glenn

“The students learned about the challenges faced by Africa besides the traditional topics such as HIV and poverty. Also, they learned about the different meanings of the African dance,” says Mouna Ben Garga, Mason graduate student and association president.

International and multicultural student organizations hosted culture nights to represent a diverse student body through food, music, dance and other activities. This year’s culture nights included themes from Nepal, the Philippines, the Mediterranean and Africa.

The Indian Graduate Student Association welcomed more than 350 people from the Mason community and from Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. “We really wanted to bring the community together,” says Amit Katti from Hyderabad, India. “The Indian grad students who graduated a couple of years back made it to the event. Bonding with old friends is always a pleasure for anyone, and we’re happy we were a reason for their get-together, too.”

The Indian Student Association, in conjunction with some other student organizations, also hosted “Get Crazy with the Desis,” which showcased several countries’ culture with food, music and performances.

International Week’s Decades Party at the Johnson Center Bistro this year highlighted the 1990s. The event was organized by the Global Crossings Living Learning Community, OIPS, Housing and Residence Life and the Center for International Access.

The closing ceremony on Friday, April 11, featured international dance competition winners in Dewberry Hall at the Johnson Center. The closing dinner menu represented cuisine from around the world.

The week was hosted by University Life, OIPS and the Office of Student Involvement.

Write to Sudha Kamath at skamath@gmu.edu

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