Seeing the world through 19 different lenses

By: Cory William Berlekamp
Twitter: @Cberlekamp

On March 16 from 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., students from 19 different countries will represent their cultures through traditional dance, dress, and cuisine during the University of Findlay’s 49th annual International Night.
The event is held in the student recreational center of the Koehler Complex and is free to students and the community to come and indulge in the different cultures represented at the University. Director of International Education Eileen Rucki says this will be the third year that International Night will be held in the FRC after the Buford Center for Diversity & Services took over the event. Before they did, the event was held in the AMU.
“When it became our responsibility, we immediately switched it in to the student rec center and made it a much bigger event,” said Rucki. According to Rucki, the number of attendees went from 250 to 1200 in their first year hosting, and was up to around 1500 last year.
Out of the 43 different countries represented at the University of Findlay, including the United States, 19 of them will be participating in the evening.
“It sounds like a low percentage but, for students, remember this is a lot to ask,” said Rucki. She believes it is important not only for the students themselves, but for the surrounding area.
“Findlay is not particularly internationally diverse but the campus is, so let’s bring that culture and information to the community as well,” said Rucki.
For one country, it will be their first year represented at international night. Michaela Fasching and Michael Kaindlstorfer are exchange students from Austria here for the spring semester. They will be in traditional Austrian dress teaching the Vienna Waltz while showcasing an Austrian soft drink and wafers.
“I think it is our duty to present our country to other people, to widen their horizon,” said Kaindlstorfer. “I want people to know how much people know about Austria because of famous things like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mozart and also Red Bull, which nobody really knows is from Austria.”
These two students are on exchange, while UF Student Parker Nash is studying in Austria for the spring. The Buford Center is also hosting a Study Abroad Open House on March 20 from 12-5 p.m. to get students involved in such exchange programs.
According to Rucki, it is not just type of food or act that is special about International Night, but the entire event. She has also turned down requests to provide a map for attendees.
“I don’t want you to have a map. I don’t want you to go to China because you like Chinese food, I want you to wander past Saudi Arabia,” said Rucki. “I want you to go through the space and trip over things that you might not have availed to yourself otherwise.”
Another thing to look forward to is an impromptu intercultural dance celebration that finishes the evening. According to Rucki, the portion happened spontaneously a few years ago when they were playing different music to end the night.
“You had Nepal dancing next to Saudi Arabia dancing next to Ireland, it was kind of my favorite part of the night,” stated Rucki.
As much fun as the night will be for domestic students, Rucki stresses that this is an outlet of expression for international students.
“I think the biggest thing is to give international students a chance to be proud,” said Rucki. “You don’t have to be like ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ You do what you want, this is your space so do your thing.”

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