UIS’ Inaugural International Week features dance, food and fun
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From the grins on the performers’ faces to the whooping and clapping of the audience at the bazaar, it was clear the first-ever International Week was met with excitement. “When I was looking at other schools before coming to UIS, I saw other schools had their International Week but UIS didn’t have it,” International Student Association (ISO) President Zehra Ozkan Shahidi said. “Then I figured, let’s create something for students.”
Several UIS ethnic and cultural student organizations like the ISA, the Indian Student and Asian Student Organizations teamed up to present different activities to share their customs with the campus community. Students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to learn dances from different continents, learn to speak different languages and even sample cuisine from around the world in the PAC Food Emporium.
Shahidi lights up as she talks about the bellydance lessons on Tue, where she taught students how to shimmy, do hip circles and more. “This is part of my culture’s dance,” said Shahidi. “That’s why I figured to teach, or show Turkish bellydance…in Turkey, it is more Arabic basic but Turkish steps are a little bit different. I just wanted to show everyone a little bit of different steps and movements and they can just enjoy the dance.”
The week began with conversational language class, teaching students basic Turkish and Hindi phrases. Wed was met with an International Bazaar which included dessert tasting of dishes like flan, a Mexican favorite and kheer, an Indian sweet. UIS Indian Student Association, Asian Student Organization, ISA and others presented native dances and other forms of arts presentations, while the Black Student Union intermittently led a trivia game. Bazaar attendees were also invited to donate money to send to Gambian children.
Zan Zhang is a native of Shanghai, China and is studying at UIS for a year through a program at her school at home. She and her dance partner opened the bazaar with an intricate dance and she said she was excited to perform for the campus. “It’s important for students to know our culture, to know our traditional dance. This dance is very popular in China and we love our dance and love to share it with other students.”
MPA graduate student Justin Rose attended the bazaar. He said he really enjoyed the experience and is happy to see the campus accommodating international students.
“You got to see an array of different cultures represented and food and dance and the interactions with the participants as well as the people observing,” he said. “It was really great to build that bridge of cultural competence.”
Thu featured a Day of Dialogue presentation on Asian stereotypes by Associate Professor Frances Shen as well as another conversational language lesson. The week ended with a game and karaoke night.
Senior global studies major Dexter Burns expressed his feelings about the depiction of Asians in Gangnam Style at the dialogue event. “You know those people who are a YouTube sensation and it lasts a couple of months to a year and then it’s over? It’s [Gangnam Style] like a fad. There’s been other people who made videos like Chocolate Rain boy.”
Public health graduate student Jesse Andrews didn’t see stereotypes the same as Burns. “I was an African American studies major so I studied the Mammy, the Tambo,” he said. “That’s why I don’t watch Tyler Perry. Why is Tyler Perry making it? He’s basically casting black people in stereotypes. I feel like black people like the image everybody already has.”
Rose added he believes UIS accommodates its international student population effectively through events such as the bazaar.
“The few international students I have spoken with rant and rave about the job that’s been done by UIS in putting them in housing courts – they put them in with similar people with their background,” he said. “However, they do mix up the house so that they can be exposed to American culture and it’s been great. They do a good job of representing their food in the Food Emporium for them and doing more events like this; giving them the leadership tools so they can do what they need to express themselves.”
Shahidi agrees with Rose. “[Our] Chancellor Koch is really great, trying to help all organizations. She’s supporting us with money or being there. She is doing everything for us,” she said. “I’m grateful for it. I am so proud to say I’m a part of UIS and I’m proud of the international students here.”