Nine Countries in One Hour
By Carla Prieto ‘14
Anyone who walked into the Global Union Lounge on Thursday Nov. 9, may have been urged to try a bite of a traditional Russian salad. Anyone may have been taught the combination of elegant, intricate movements that combine to create a traditional Kazakh dance. But everyone who was at “9 Countries in 1 Hour” was given a unique window into the cultures of nine international Fulbright students.
Some Fulbrighters presented attendees with creative and informative PowerPoint slideshows. Others spoke briefly about their country of origin before inviting guests to shuffle their feet to a traditional dance or open their mind to the unusual tastes of an international dish.
Aubain Adi, a Fulbright graduate student from Côte d'Ivoire, spoke about the various challenges, like the scarcity of public colleges, that face his nation. He also elicited broad smiles from the crowd when he played catchy club music and clicked through pictures of Ivorians movin’ and groovin’ at discotheques.
“We have a lot of performers coming. Keri Hilson. She’s American, right? She performed in Côte d'Ivoire,” he said enthusiastically.
Other Fulbrighters took interactive approaches to their presentations: Gerardo Calderón stood in front of the room in a traditional El Salvadorian outfit and told standing guests they would be learning the traditional dance of the coffee pickers, Las Cortadoras.
“I’m not so good at dancing,” said Calderón, while rocking slightly forward with his hands clasped at waist level. “You will watch this video and do what they do,” he exclaimed giddily as guests turned to their neighbor and laughed excitedly.
The event was strategically planned, one might observe, as the international dancing worked up an appetite appropriately satiated by international foods and drinks, like Taiwanese boba tea and Turkish baklava, to name a few.
Lehigh’s International Week is one of the nation’s largest international education commemorations. As of 2008, Lehigh offers the sixth highest number of academic and cultural activities in lieu of International Week, according to an article on the university’s website.
Margaret Van Valkenburg, ’14, helped market “9 Countries in 1 Hour.” “I was extremely impressed with the event. I thought there was a great mixture of information and food and dance. My favorite parts of the event were the Romanian dancing, and the presentation of the Ivory Coast as I did not know much about the country,” she said.
Valkenburg added that she was pleased to see such a great mixture of international students gathered at the event, and says that she hopes that just as great a number of American students attend future international education events. Calderón said that the event was a special way to celebrate his 26th birthday.
“The most important thing is that this event broke with any stereotypes that we might have about any one of these nine cultures, and at the same time [it] makes us appreciate the historical richness behind each person. I think everything depends on understanding each other. If all countries understand and respect other cultures, there wouldn't be any wars…,” he said.
November 13, 2012