University of South Carolina's International Student Association (ISA) hosted its first International Student Showcase Friday on the Russell House Patio. The showcase featured flag presentations, games and performances by a diverse selection of international students and organizations.
Julie Medlin Carriker, USC’s senior internationalization manager, said when she thinks about international students on campus, resilience comes to mind.
“They’re just resilient. That what I’ve seen," Carriker said. "The international student population on campus, they’re open and welcoming of people to learn about who they are and to learn about knowing American culture.”
This resilience extends to USC’s ISA as a whole. One example is the showcase, which was originally planned for Friday, March 26, but was postponed due to rain.
But rain is a relatively minor inconvenience compared to the pandemic, which threatened whether the event would happen at all.
This showcase was a replacement for World Night, a similar multicultural exhibition that is hosted annually inside the Russell House Ballroom, according to Patrick Steimer, a USC graduate student and graduate assistant for the International Student Services. He was also in charge of planning the event alongside ISA.
Since hosting 600 people indoors wasn't possible this year, International Student Services had to rethink the event.
“We didn’t want to cancel it just because we had COVID restrictions. We tried to find a creative way to still give that stage, metaphorical and literal stage, to students,” Carriker said.
Instead of an indoor event, World Night was reimagined as an outdoor production, and thus the International Student Showcase was conceived. While the concept is essentially the same, the change of time and location gives the experience a different feel, according to Steimer.
“If it’s inside the ballroom, it’s a little more intimate. Here, it’s a little more spread out,” Steimer said.
There are benefits to hosting a more public, outdoor event, especially when it comes to visibility. Adeola Adebajo, second-year public health student and secretary for the ISA, said this heightened visibility can be appealing to prospective students and families.
“It is a really nice opportunity for them to see how diverse USC is," Adebajo said. "If you pick USC, this is an example of what we will be expecting.”
Visibility aside, the most important aspect these events offer is a space for international students to be active and build community, Steimer said.
“Giving [international students] an opportunity to be involved through an event like this, or just giving them some sort of outlet to be together, I think, is really important to help students still feel like they have that sense of community,” Steimer said.
This year’s showcase began with flag presentations. Students from Bangladesh, Ireland, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Oman and Saudi Arabia displayed their flags on stage, creating a miniature parade of cultures and colors.
Next, international students and organizations performed. These included K-pop dance routines; Arabic songs with oud, a Middle Eastern strummed instrument, and drum accompaniment; an Indonesian legend-song performed by a duo of voice and guitar; and a traditional Chinese dance performed by two students wearing customary red and gold dresses, among others.
The walkways behind the stage were lined with tables displaying exhibits from various cultural organizations. The entire atmosphere was one of multicultural pride, festivity and celebration.
For Carriker, that is the purpose of these events. Whether it's the indoor World Night or the outdoor showcase, creating opportunities for international students to share their culture is what’s it’s all about.
“If we do another event like the showcase, or if we go back to the World Night, is that it would just be an opportunity for people to feel confident in who they are and get to share that with students,” Carriker said.
The International Student Showcase is just one of a handful of programs the office of International Student Services offers to create a multicultural university experience. Thinking Globally, Buddies Beyond Borders, International Education Week and Carolina Intercultural Training are other initiatives USC supports to facilitate cross-cultural exposure.
You can learn more about USC's Office of International Student Services and its initiatives on its website.