The Multicultural Affairs office MCA, International Student Organization ISO and Diversity Celebrations Committee DCC sponsored International Awareness Week from Nov. 4-8. The week’s events, which included panel discussions and a display between Boe Chapel and Buntrock Commons, ends Friday with International Food Night. Groups representing various cultures and ethnic groups will be serving their respective cuisines in seven honor houses.
International Awareness Week is “an opportunity for the student body to become educated about some aspect of international affairs which the committee – the International Awareness Week committee – has decided to talk about,” said Nathan Detweiler ’16, co-chair of ISO and an event coordinator for International Awareness Week.
The week relates to the ever-popular spring semester event “International Night,” though, according to Detweiler, “International Night celebrates cultures and ethnic groups from throughout the world, and International Awareness Week focuses a lot more on an issue that not only relates to the international community but to humanity at large.”
The theme for International Awareness Week this year was “War and Footprints of Reconciliation: Moving Beyond War.”
“As the International Student Organization, we think it’s important to talk about something universal,” Detweiler said, “so we chose human suffering and reconciliation.”
Each of the week’s events focused on that theme, and included the discussion “Reconciliation: What Has and Has Not Worked in Somalia,” which took place on Nov. 5 and the faculty panel “Footprints of Reconciliation,” which featured Professors Charles Huff psychology, Steve Soderlind economics and Amine Bekhechi French and took place on Nov. 6. On Nov. 7, another panel, “MISS[ed] SAIGON,” featured Assistant Professor of English Jennifer Kwon-Dobbs and David Mura, a novelist and former instructor at St. Olaf. The events all sought to point out shared experience and common ground.
“I think that’s the strength of the whole week,” Detweiler said. “International Awareness Week is much more global in that the appeal of the theme is not limited purely to an international perspective but relates back to humanity as a whole. We can all relate to overcoming adversity; we all have stories like that, and it’s important to take stock in that common heritage rather than separate ourselves by divisions that have no truly significant bearing on who we are as humans.”
International Food Night ends a week focused on suffering with a happier note.
“It’s a more universally appreciable event because it’s not education, it’s food,” Detweiler said, “but at the same time there is interaction between the people who are cooking and the people who are visiting and getting food from them.”
The organizers of the events hoped to facilitate interactions between the different cultures that are represented in the student body.
“The cooking teams, the honor houses and the guests hopefully get to know each other in a way they wouldnt have otherwise and experience each others cultures in a casual, fun setting,” said Vashti Daniel ’16, the event coordinator.
“On the surface,” Daniel added, “it might seem to contradict the theme of International Awareness Week, but we think that Food Night fits in perfectly because not only does it spread awareness about different cultures, but it does so in a setting that is minimally artificial.”
International Food Night occurs in the Rose, Thomson, Huggenvik, Felland, Schmidt, Holstad and Larson Houses from 7-9:30 p.m. on Friday. The groups involved include the Korean Culture Association, Talking Circle, Hmong Culture Outreach, Karibu and ISO. Students may begin at any time, but the event coordinators recommend that they attend each house in the order listed above.