The lights inside HUB 302 were dimmed and the smell of curry and enchiladas filled the room. Posters of cartoon foods with phrases such as “I love you so matcha” and “Hummus where the heart is” decorated the space. Over 200 students, international and domestic, joined ISU in their first International Night. ISU had been created over a year ago, and spent the last three months planning the event.
On Friday, April 12 International Student Union (ISU) in sponsorship with the International Affairs office, UCR Extension Center, ASPB and Gram’s Mission BBQ held this inaugural event. Throughout the night, organizations performed cultural shows and food from different cuisines was served. Among the performers were Senryu Taiko, dance group Sixcess, Ballet Folklorico de UCR, HallyUCR’s K-Pop dance team Tartan Seoul, Oceania dance and 909 dance team. The night also featured performances from UCR students Ran Tan, who performed a classical Chinese Dance, Sherry Meng who performed a flute solo, Nyl Doligosa who sang a Filipino song with outside performers Laurence Tan and KC Gonzales, Prashanthi Manoharan who gave a Bharatanatyam performance and Aakash Saha who sang a medley of songs.
The night began with ISU president and fourth year psychology major Viresha Perera welcoming the audience. “Our goal was to create a campus and a place where international students feel empowered and connected. Tonight is a celebration of our culture, our diversity, and our unity,” said Perera.
In the middle of the event, Vice Provost of International Affairs Dr. Kelechi Kalu addressed the importance of international students since he himself was at one point an international student too. “International students are key components of what UCR is today and will become tomorrow,” said Kalu. “I thank you so much for taking the initiative to advance our collaborative interest, to come together through food, through music, through dancing, through friendship and family to build a community that connects your homeland to this country, your family to this institution, and to expand your global reach.” He added, “By so doing you have honored us and in return, yourself.”
Throughout the night, attendees participated in the henna and photo booth activities while others enjoyed the performances and food.
“International students before ISU didn’t have a place where they could feel at home,” began Perera, “where they could feel empowered, feel connected to the rest of the campus and to each other. I’m glad that ISU is finally doing that for us.”
Lisa Dong, a fourth-year psychology major and director of International Night, emphasized the effort the ISU officers and board members put on for the event. “This is our first time doing (International Night),” said Dong. “It was the most amazing because we wanted (it) to be the legacy for the future. Hopefully the one next year and the year after will be better than this year’s.”
ISU can be reached through their Highlander Link (International Student Union) or Facebook page. ISU’s holds the recurring event Coffee Hours every Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the patio behind Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf where students can meet and socialize with ISU members and international students.