Universities with a diverse international student population can make students feel less homesick by making efforts to celebrate cultural events from home.
By doing so, universities promote diversity and the different cultures students come from, fostering a culture of inclusion and acceptance.
Both local and international students benefit from festivals like Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year as it’s referred to in some countries, is starting to wrap up its global celebrations, although it’s celebrated for nearly one month in countries like China and Malaysia.
Let’s take a look at how some universities got on board by ringing in the Year of the Pig.
Jawaharlal Nehru University
In India, Chinese New Year celebrations are not as big as Diwali, but one university went out of its way to hold a grand function to celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival and the Year of the Pig earlier this month.
Students of Chinese language at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University put on a performance with dance, songs and a play in Mandarin – and there were traditional Indian dances, too.
Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy Zhu Xiaohong said that Chinese New Year was the most significant festival of the Chinese people.
“It is a time for families to get together, express thanks to the elders and make best wishes for the new year. It is a season for relatives and friends to connect and enjoy each other’s company. It is a symbol of good fortune and harmony. It embodies our best wishes for a beautiful life. I am glad that JNU had the tradition to host such event to celebrate the Chinese New year,” said Zhu.
Soni, a third year Indian student of the Chinese language at JNU, told Xinhua Net that it was her first experience to attend the Chinese New Year celebrations, and that she also participated in a cultural performance at the event.
She said, “Yes there is very much of enthusiasm among all us students to participate in this cultural fest organized to mark the Chinese New Year.”
University of Memphis
Nine dancers from the University of Memphis entertained the crowd at the Buro Art Crawl with a lively dragon dance. Source: MTSU Sidelines
Dancers from the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis celebrated by performing a traditional dragon dance during the Boro Art Crawl, as reported by Murfreesboro Post. The dance was followed by traditional martial arts performances.
Dr. Mei Han, Director of the Center for Chinese Music and Culture, said, “Traditionally China was an agricultural society so farming was the main industry, let’s say, 5,000 years ago. This is the beginning of the new year, and that is also a time for family to get together, very much like Christmas.”
Along with the vibrant dragon dance, the events also featured Chinese music performances using traditional instruments, and an art exhibition at The Center for the Arts by Xei Weiqiang, who paints classical Chinese artworks. The exhibition will be open until the end of the month.
Universities in Philadelphia
In Philadephia, several universities got together to host the Chinese New Year Showcase for a sixth consecutive year.
Co-hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Saint Joseph’s University and Drexel University, with invited students from Villanova University, Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College as special guests. It was a vibrant affair, merging both traditional and modern forms of entertainment.
Performances included Chinese cultural performances (Chinese opera and Xiangsheng), pop dances, rap performances, and more.
Student Calista Huang wrote for The Villanovan, “The three hours in that auditorium were like a quick homecoming, it brought us back to the familiarity and the festivity of Chinese New Year. It made up for the regret we had of not being home and celebrating the new year with families. It offered us a chance to appreciate our culture in a different context. It brought us home and brought home to us.”
University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)
UMKC’s Vietnamese Student Association promoted their culture with Lunar New Year celebrations this year. Source: University News
Lunar New Year is not only celebrated by the Chinese, but also people from other countries in Asia who observe the calendar, such as Vietnam and Korea.
Recognising this, UMKC’s Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) used the occasion to promote Vietnamese culture as they celebrated Lunar New Year at the Student Union.
Students learnt about Lunar New Year celebrations in Vietnam through a variety of events such as traditional games, cuisine and performances. There was also a photo booth with props made by VSA, along with flowers and conical hats which symbolised the beauty of Vietnamese culture.
VSA President Phung Tran said, “It’s basically Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter combined into one holiday. We would usually take the whole month off in Vietnam, similar to a winter break.”
“International students feel lonelier around this time of year because they cannot visit their families back home. There’s no way for us to go back home in the middle of the semester.”
Western Carolina University
The Lunar New Year celebrations took place in two ways at Western Carolina University. The first celebration was held in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center, where faculty, staff, students and members of the community were invited to witness Chinese culture and traditional activities.
Over 250 people turned up to enjoy traditional songs and dances, a gamelan musical performance by WCU music professor Will Peebles and the Angklung Ensemble, and a poetry reading by Will Lehman of the Department of World Languages faculty.
Other activities included traditional face painting, paper cutting, Chinese calligraphy, snacks and “Pin the Pig’s Nose”, and children were given a traditional red envelope with money.
The second celebration was a performance by the Lily Cai Dance Company, which took the audience on a journey through Chinese history with dances from Zhou, Tang, Qing and Dai dynasties.
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