Last Saturday, Association of International Students aimed to educate and entertain TU with International Night: World Icons.
International Night was hosted by the ever-charismatic Reeza Redzuan Rosnan (who I feel like I’ve gotten to know simply because I’ve watched him host so many campus events recently). The night started off with a bang as Rosnan presented a comedic rendition of “All That Jazz,” complete with AIS-themed lyrics, sultry dancing and theatrics.
The event consisted of a number of performances by different international student associations on campus. The theme of this year’s International Night was “World Icons,” so each group was tasked with presenting a person or thing who acted as an icon in their country. A panel of judges consisting of Jacqueline Caldwell, Steve Denton, Istvan Feher and Pat Cawiezell picked first- and second-place winners.
First up was “Reach for the Stars,” a presentation by Malaysian Student Association about Sheikh Muszaphar, the first Malaysian astronaut. Members of MSA acted out the equally heartwarming and heart-wrenching story of “Mus” and his biggest supporter, his brother Sheikh Mustapha.
Vietnamese Student Association followed with “The Legend of the Sacred Cakes,” my personal favorite of the night. They acted out the story of three princes — one who was very physically fit (wearing a muscle suit) one who was very rich (wearing a spiky red wig and a bunch of bling) and one who was poor and modest. The brothers were required to bring their father the best food in the kingdom so that he could decide who would become the next king. The poorest son brought his father Bahn Chung Bahn Giay, a cake which became the signature dish of the Vietnamese people. The students from VSA acted out the legend with a great balance of humor, taste and education, and I really enjoyed it.
Ottilia Master presented for West African Student Association, speaking on Africa’s many countries and beautiful array of natural features and highlighting founding fathers from North, East, West, Central and South Africa. Though this presentation was maybe the least visually pleasing, it was definitely the most effective in terms of education.
The next act, a reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” was presented by the Association of Black Collegiates. The presenters represented a number of marginalized groups including those with disabilities, racial minorities and LGBTQ+ Americans, attempting to convey the diversity of America and the tenacity of these groups in the face of oppression.
Chinese Student Association presented Confucius as their icon. They first brought a student dressed on Confucius onstage with four very small, cute kids from the Tulsa Chinese School, where he sat with the children and had them repeat phrases back to him in Mandarin. The kids were obviously very excited to be onstage, and they got so into repeating the phrases into the microphone that they nearly knocked Confucius over — this got a laugh from everyone, because who doesn’t like kids? This segment of the presentation was followed by eight or nine students performing a beautiful Chinese dance. CSA’s presentation was definitely the most visually stunning. I would say that I didn’t learn very much about Confucius from it, though, other than that he was a teacher.
AIS as a group presented “Ha Ha Land” to close out the show, an act based on the popular movie “La La Land” which featured music and dancing from the movie and a really impressive juggling act.
The program also listed Persian Student Association and Indian Student Association, but these groups didn’t appear onstage.
While the judges deliberated, AIS advisor David Kobel presented AIS president Aiken Sujana with an award for International Student of the Year. The judges returned to announce that Chinese Student Association won first place and Vietnamese Student Association came in second.
After the show, food was provided in the lobby. It looked delicious but I wasn’t able to fight through the crowd to try any of it before I had to leave.
As usual, I was really impressed by the scope of AIS’ organizational and promotional skills. If you watched their videos, you’d think they had hired a professional ad agency. The brochure I was given upon entry looked like it belonged at a professional theatrical production.
International Night was a little less engaging than other AIS events I’ve attended (for example, last semester’s International Night Market, which was an absolute blast). It also suffered from a couple minor issues with lighting and sound — some of the audio for videos shown between acts was barely understandable.
However, in terms of educating the audience about TU’s different international student groups and their icons, showcasing the talents of international students and celebrating the diversity on TU campus in a welcoming and inclusive way, International Night was hugely successful. I’m always impressed with AIS’ work and this event was no exception.