International Night is an annual event to celebrate and encourage diversity on the Portland State campus. On May 21, the Organization of International Students hosted International Night in Smith Memorial Student Union at PSU. All seven continents were represented through food, art and performances.
The 700 capacity event sold out the morning before. Many people in attendance were students from PSU; the event welcomed both domestic and international students to enjoy various cultures.
“I hope for students to enjoy the food, the country and the show [at International Night],” said Hanh Vu, the co-coordinator of OIS and PSU senior. Vu is from Hanoi, Vietnam and has attended PSU for five years. “I hope it will get people interested in knowing more about a culture.”
Vu joined OIS after attending International Night one year ago and saw great value in the long-held event.
International Night provides an opportunity for international students to contribute to the PSU community and act as cultural ambassadors by educating through performances, country-themed booths and authentic food samples.
“People will learn something new and have fun as well,” said Virgina Saraswati, a senior studying economics and a member of Permias PDX, the Indonesian Student Association. “I hope people will recognize Indonesia more.”
Saraswati performed Angling—a traditional Vietnamese instrument made of bamboo from the West Java. When asked why Permias decided on the particular instrument, she said, “It is a communal instrument and a good way to build teamwork, just like bell choir.”
This year, the theme of the show was “Music, the universal language.” Individual performances representing specific nationalities, such as Estonia and Vietnam, as well as collaborative stages that upheld the theme of the show. The main event of the evening was a fashion show representing traditional costumes from many countries.
“I came to know more about how I fit into the global culture,” said Bhavana Ramesh, a graduate student studying engineering. “I hope students get a sense of what’s happening in other parts of the world besides the little zone that we live in.”
The food served included Indian, Vietnamese, Egyptian and West African cuisines. There were booths set up on the second floor of SMSU where attendees could learn about history, economy and other interesting facts about different nations and student groups. Many participants wore traditional clothing and showcased unique artifacts from their countries.
According to theOIS website, there are about 2,000 international students at PSU, making up eight percent of the entire student population. OIS is one of the largest student organizations on campus that provides support and a home-base for international students who come from far away countries. The idea is to create a safe place for students to feel welcome and ensure that their voices are heard.
While International Night is the biggest event put together by OIS, the group organizes other events as well.
Every week, students are invited to the coffee hour where students have the opportunity to exchange cultures and languages. OIS also hosts Halloween parties and Thanksgiving dinners for students who don’t have families to share the festivities with.
OIS works closely with international students in their daily lives. It is their responsibility to help these students overcome unique challenges they may face upon life abroad. OIS will help them find housing, refer them to resources and provide communication assistance.
“I know that diversity is very much celebrated at PSU right now; however, it seems still on a surface level,” Vu said. “I think that individuals at this university—not just domestic and other international students—should stay compassionate for what other people are going through due to their diverse backgrounds.”