International Night is a highlight for many St. Olaf Students. Not only does it give students a platform to celebrate various traditions and cultures, it also allows audience members the chance to see just how many students hold values and roots in places far beyond the United States. It’s one of the few times during the year that those Boe Chapel flags of all the countries St. Olaf Students represent aren’t just a fun fact for the admissions tour guides to tell prospective students.
The 52nd annual International Night was held this year on Saturday, March 10 in the Pause. The event was hosted by the International Students Organization (ISO), with sponsoring from Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE) and the Diversity Celebrations Committee (DCC) of SGA. Students and Northfield community members began filling in seats just after 6 p.m., hoping to secure the best view of Mane Stage for the 6:30 p.m. show.
The night didn’t begin there, though. In Stav Hall, a themed dinner with dishes from all over the world was served. Of course, as a vegetarian, my highlights included “Dal” in the Nepal line, complete with Naan. Other students enjoyed Paella with shrimp and sausage.
The show began with a message from the co-chairs, Zoua Lor ’18 and Rayan Sadeldin ’20, reminding students that International Night is not about entertainment or education. Rather, the night is supposed to give students a platform and space to celebrate and express various cultures that students do not have the opportunity to do on a daily basis.
This year’s theme, “Here’s My Story,” aimed to give students the opportunity for sharing their stories and experiences from their cultures through various performances. Lor and Sadeldin also wanted to remind everyone that the performances do not represent the culture or country as a whole – they only represent a very small fraction of it.
“It’s an extremely powerful thing – being able to see all of your classmates stand on the stage, holding their flags high in the air.” – Megan Hussey ’20
Following the introduction, the flag ceremony commenced. Using the theme of the World Cup, the MCs proceeded to announce all the countries represented in the performance. Students who weren’t performing also had the option to carry a flag in the ceremony. This was definitely a highlight of the performance for me, because as students it’s so easy to forget just how much of the world St. Olaf represents. It’s an extremely powerful thing – being able to see all of your classmates stand on the stage, holding their flags high in the air.
The show consisted of two halves, with a short intermission. Some of my favorite performances included “Tibetan Relpa,” complete with drumming and songs, classical Arabic songs with a theme of love, a dance originating in Northern India entitled “Bhangra” and, of course, the ending performance, “Afro Fusion,” that had the crowd going wild.
Two other powerful performances highlighted more personal stories. Amrita Bhagia ’19 performed a slam poem, telling the story of her childhood as one of the few people of color in her small town. Additionally, a spoken word piece entitled, “America’s Horror Story,” discussed the history of racial violence in America. The piece ended with an extremely powerful quote, “We might be your nightmare, but you are still our reality.”
Highs of the night include the comedic commentary between performances, seeing incredibly talented students perform dances and songs from all over the world and the sweet coconut water served at intermission. The only low of the night includes tall people blocking my view, but then again, I’ve come to expect that at every show I attend. Overall, the 52nd International Night dazzled.