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By Diana Gaona
Saturday’s standing-room-only audience in E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium got to see first-hand what internationalism is as more than 150 students representing countries from around the world performed in the annual Night of Nations.
Now in its 10th year,, Night of Nations showcases SUNY Plattsburgh’s international students, their talents and their traditions through music and dance. Saturday night’s show saw performances with Chinese, Caribbean, South American, Japanese, Indian, South Asia and Arabic influences, to name but a few.
With “Feel the Unity; Chase the Memory” as its theme, the acts were strung together by actors who, pretending to be returning for their homecoming, did a “remember when” as a way to introduce each upcoming performance.
The evening was hosted by the Global Education Office and Club International and sponsored by the Student Association and College Auxiliary Services. It kicks off a week of international education, with global education mentor tabling, international Iron Chef competition, Killam Fellowship Program information session, and an evening of Pakistani culture and entertainment on tap.
Ten years ago, Harrison Offatsa Sindima ’01, a graduate student in the Global Education Office, was given the task of coming up with an event to mark the celebration of International Education Week.
“I wanted something that was going to showcase student diversity,” the master’s in administration and leadership in higher education student said.
The original Night of Nations was produced on a plywood stage on the floor of the Warren Ballrooms in the Angell College Centeron a Wednesday night. Billed as an evening of talent, fashion and dance, would-be student performers had to be turned away because there was no more room on the program.
“Night of Nations is my favorite event as it brings our campus diversity into one, big dynamic showcase and introduces different cultures to the community.
Scheduled for two hours, Sindima said he thought it could have gone on for at least twice that with the standing-room-only crowd crying for more.
“Night of Nations is my favorite event as it brings our campus diversity into one, big dynamic showcase and introduces different cultures to the community.”
“The irony of Night of Nations is that over the years, it has grown much bigger and taken on a life of its own. In some ways, it has become part of SUNY Plattsburgh’s culture,” the Malawi native said. “To look at such an event and realize it had to do with some of my contributions makes me feel so proud to be a Cardinal.”
The Global Education Office has been celebrating International Education Week since its inception 16 years ago, according to Jackie Vogl, assistant vice president for international enrollment management. The week-long event is a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.
Night of Nations provides its participants the same opportunity to become more globally aware by providing students the chance to showcase their talents individually or in a group for an audience to enjoy.
Quynh Bui, logistics coordinator for this year’s event, said she considers Night of Nations an exciting experience because she “can see students from different backgrounds come together to represent different cultures and put almost the whole show together by themselves.”
Vogl said the event is not only a learning experience for the audience, “but also for all the students who participate in the leadership team, as performers and behind the scenes.”
She’s pleased the event has become a tradition that both campus and Plattsburgh community attend. With more than 70 countries represented on campus, she said she hopes the community realizes how unique it is in regards to global diversity.
“We hope that this event is both educational and entertaining,” Vogl said. “(It’s) a powerful combination in our institutional efforts toward comprehensive internationalization.”
Through countless hours of practice, students participating in the event are given the chance to meet new people and learn about and share their culture with each other.
“I joined Night of Nations because I wanted to gain new experiences,” said Hoang Dan, a junior business administration major from Vietnam. “I have been able to make new friends and participate in other cultural performances. Being part of (the event) is the same as being part of something special, diverse and exciting.” Dan will showcase his dancing skills in the Vietnamese Student Association and Korean Association numbers.
“Night of Nations is my favorite event as it brings our campus diversity into one, big dynamic showcase and introduces different cultures to the community,” said Ba Wool Lim, a senior marketing and business administration major from South Korea.
A four-year Night of Nations performer, Lim has choreographed a variety of performances since his sophomore year and plans to perform in five numbers this year.
“As I’m a graduating senior, I wanted to take part in more shows for more memories because I am a dance lover, and I love being on the stage presenting myself,” he said. “But also, I wanted to support other international clubs that I am a member of.”
“Night of Nations is a lot of fun but requires a lot of practice and commitment for the performers as well as for the leadership time,” Bui said.
Vogl said she hopes the audience walks away with a sense that the performing arts provide a perfect platform for increased awareness of and appreciation for global diversity.
About the Author
Diana Gaona is a senior public relations and anthropology major from Cuenca, Ecuador, who resides in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her family. She is a peer career assistant at the Career Development Center, public relations coordinator for the Late Night Weekends at the Sundowner, and a public relations intern with the Office of Marketing and Communications. Her hobbies include kickboxing, photography, and meeting foreign students to learn new language phrases. She hopes to travel around the world and work with nonprofit organizations.
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