International Night brought people from around the world to the first three floors of Smith Memorial Student Union. Attendees were treated to a multitude of educational booths run by international students, song and dance performances from a wide variety of countries, and a fashion show in the Smith Ballroom, which incorporated a culturally diverse array of both modern and traditional outfits.
The annual event was held on May 15 this year and was free to PSU students.
Eugene Smith, a half-British, half-Korean exchange student, said a big part of International Night is giving attendees a taste of different cultures from across the globe. Though he was unsure of the exact number, there were over 50 countries represented at the event, according to Smith.
“The different rooms are divided into different regions, and people have brought in food, people have brought in artifacts, and a lot of people are wearing their native clothing,” Smith said. “On the third floor [there was] a big performance area, so it really is about a gathering of different ideas and perspective, which is what culture is all about in the end.”
Smith has been a part of a scholarship program for international students called the International Cultural Service Program since January. Cultural presentations like the one he hosted at International Night are fairly common for members of the program, he said.
“Portland isn’t necessarily well known for its diversity, but there is diversity,” Smith said. “It’s just a bit more spread out. It’s less noticeable than it is in cities like San Francisco or New York…This is an opportunity for people who are interested in that, so I think it is quite important, especially for a city like Portland.”
Haneen Ali, a foreign exchange student from Iraq, said that the event was a great opportunity to share her thoughts, background and culture with other students.
“We have now struggled with many issues,” Ali said. “I want to tell people that we still have people who love to live and love to be educated, love to learn, love to travel and see the world.”
The event helped Ali earn hours toward her scholarship, she added.
“I’m looking, as I said, to talk with people and…highlight or focus on the important things of Iraq,” Ali said “We still have life, we still have history, we still have people who want to serve their country.”
Hailing from Uganda, Gorrety Parmu set up a booth at International Night in hope of teaching attendees about her country’s culture and scenery.
“People can get interested, they can go to places for tourism—tourists can eventually go there—so I’m really hoping this is going to be a great day for Uganda,” Parmu said.
Some of the big attractions from Uganda are its landscape and wide variety of rare animals, according to Parmu.
“Another thing is it has the source of the river Nile, which is the longest river in the world,” Parmu said. “That is something that really anyone would want to know and see in person.”
International Night plays a role in welcoming people from different countries to Portland and establishing the city’s role as a multicultural environment, according to Parmu.
Luisa Lamas Dalmaso, a Brazilian exchange student studying at PSU, was one of the attendees drawn to
“I actually liked it a lot,” Dalmaso said. “I didn’t think there was going to be a Brazilian stand, which is my country, and I was surprised there was. So I really liked it.”
According to Dalmaso, “Events like International Night are helpful in exposing Portlanders to different cultures from around the world.”
“I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did,” Dalmaso said.
“I really think this event is very important,” Parmu said. “First of all, it brings out the different cultures in the world…It brings out the uniqueness of each country, with the foods, with the traditions, with the clothing.”