John Dykstra ’13 – Detchon Hall resonated with enthusiasm Thursday night embracing a wide variety of cultures. The International Students Association (ISA) hosted the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.
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The event had a tremendous turnout despite being moved from the Mall to Detchon due to rain. ISA President Huy Ahn Le ’13 said it reflects the growth of Wabash’s Asian studies program.
“It was a great turnout tonight,” Le said. “Even though it was raining, everyone followed us here. That shows this program is very appealing to people and that Asian studies is becoming more popular.”
The ISA had to cook food beforehand due to the rain. The initial plans were to have a cookout. David Clapp, Director of Off-Campus Studies & International Students at Wabash, was pleased with the students’ effort in moving to Detchon.
“Overall, it was great because the students really worked hard in the preparation, which made it possible when we moved from outside in the rain and into here so well,” Clapp said. “Everyone pitched in. It was really quite something. I have never seen students work together so well like that. These are guys from ten different countries. This shows that it can happen.”
The ISA used the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival not only to celebrate Chinese culture, but a wide variety of Asian cultures.
“This year the performances are more diverse,” Le said. “Last year, we did not have an Asian studies program. Another thing is that we have a bigger population of American students in our Chinese language studies courses. So, it is more diverse. More participation and ideas are coming from things like that.”
Associate Dean of Students Will Oprisko thought the festival was a great communally unifying event.
“From my perspective it is a great example of men and students and faculty and staff from different backgrounds and perspectives coming together to celebrate something that is important to a few,” Oprisko said. “And that celebration actually makes it important to all of us.”
Last week, members of the ISA were invited and attended DePauw’s celebration of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. So, Wabash’s ISA invited DePauw to attend last night’s celebration. DePauw sent buses of students over.
Loutfi Jirari, Director of International Services at DePauw, thought the two events will lead to more future collaborations between DePauw and Wabash’s ISAs.
“I think this is a very great event,” Jirari said. “We were very happy to get an invitation to come here and I really think there are many things that we can do together between DePauw and Wabash. I mean our universities are really close and both universities have a good history. I feel we are privileged and lucky to have a good international population on both of our campuses. So, I feel there is a lot we can do together, a lot of joint events.”
DePauw student Sally Qiu ’14 noted some differences in how Wabash’s ISA celebrated the event.
“Here, they have people from Vietnam, Thailand, and China – they all celebrate this festival together. And also there are Americans, who might not know a lot about the traditions back in China. So, it is a very good opportunity to communicate with people from different cultures.”
Wabash students participated in a wide variety of events that entertained the crowd. Professor Ssu-Yu Chou and Qian Zu Pullen’s students sang the song “Two Tigers” together. Sam Smith ’12 was one of the students performing.
“This [performance] kind of got us out of our comfort zone, especially singing in front of people in Chinese,” Smith said. “This is great for letting everyone know that we do have an Asian studies program now; and it’s a great event for everybody to come out and learn about Chinese.”
Pullen was fascinated by the event’s turnout and thought it would have a profound cultural effect.
“I think a lot of host families came tonight and I think this performance and this event is going to convince many that Asians are not a minority anymore,” Pullen said. “We are building this Asian studies program not only for Asian students, but to include the whole community.”
Clapp said the event helps build student enthusiasm. “It is not just a class; we are having fun; we’re learning about what people actually do, how they live, the food they eat, the tea they drink and so on,” he said. “So, it brings the culture of all these people who are with American students studying – it brings it alive and lets you see that it is not just something in books or a movie. It’s real. You’ve lived a little piece of that now.”