When second-year master’s student Menna Hammam came to the United States, she realized that a lot of people had a wrong image of what Egypt looks like. That’s why she’s excited to be able to authentically celebrate her culture at International Night, Arizona State University's largest student-led event, on Nov. 15 at the Tempe campus.
“People think the Egyptian culture is very conservative, but it’s actually a very fun culture full of rich history,” she said.
Hammam, who is studying construction management, said that Egypt is welcoming and open. “I celebrate my culture by introducing the real Egypt to people,” she said.
Now in its 16th year, International Night has grown exponentially since a group of Sun Devils in the Coalition of International Students launched the event in 2004 to celebrate the cultural diversity of Arizona State University.
Hammam is one of the event managers for this year’s event, which is poised to be bigger than ever. She said they expect up to 6,000 attendees to enjoy hot air balloon rides, music, food and much more from ASU’s dozens of cultural student organizations.
Hammam believes that there is a lot to learn from people who are different from you, and from different countries. She said that she feels it’s important for her peers to see the world from different perspectives.
Those who attend International Night “will gain a chance to travel the world in a couple of hours,” Hammam said. “We try to give people a sense of how it feels to be in a different place or give them a sense of countries they’ve never been to,” she added.
Ching Yin Luk, who goes by Kelvin, is the president of the coalition and the chief designer for International Night. Ching is a third-year student majoring in industrial design and is from Hong Kong.
He said the main goal of this event is to create a bridge between domestic students and international students to know and understand each other.
“I believe that when people stand together we will be strong. ... We might have different beliefs and different backgrounds, but if we can all respect each other, stand together, we can build a better future for our next generation,” Ching said.
International Night is a free event that is completely open to the public. There will be dozens of outside community groups and ASU clubs and organizations serving food, showcasing hands-on art, performances and much more.
Ching said that it’s been not only a cultural opportunity but a leadership opportunity for the Coalition of International Students members who plan the event.
“During the process they will learn teamwork, leadership and most importantly earn friendships at the same time,” Ching said.
Sun Devil leaders from Arizona and across the U.S. will also help celebrate International Night. ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government, Programming and Activities Board and cultural coalitions support the event by contributing everything from event infrastructure to promotion to tabling at the event.
ASU’s Tempe campus Undergraduate Student Government President Hanna Salem said that the undergraduate Senate appropriated funds for the event and that it’s a great way for students to work together.
“It is important for ASU clubs and organizations to collaborate in order for students who come from different clubs, backgrounds, majors, and interests to learn how to work together and make initiatives or events even more successful,” Salem said.
“ASU's mission of inclusivity and diversity is clearly displayed through this event. Students are able to receive a global education by making friends from other countries, eating different cuisines, and learning more about the students that make up the ASU student body.”
“CIS is a model of a new start up, which means we never exclude people because of their color or background,” Ching said. “We are here to unite and create. We are the most elite team that creates some of the greatest events, and we look for some of the most passionate, creative and hardworking folks at ASU who look forward to learning, to get training or practice skills that they have.”
ASU has been ranked the top public university of choice for international students for the last four years in a row, according to the 2018 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. In the 2017–18 school year, more than 13,400 international students studied here. ASU has also been climbing in rankings for study abroad, now placing in the top 10.
Cassandra Aska, assistant vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services and dean of students at ASU’s Tempe campus, enjoys the event and said it’s an exemplar of community building at ASU.
“It’s another opportunity to demonstrate the diversity of the community and celebrate all the individuals who are part of the Sun Devil family. Everyone is welcome to enjoy and learn about places they may never physically visit,” Aska said.
Her favorite memory of International Night was several years ago, when she was approached by a group of students asking her to try octopus balls. A different group of students overheard and were amazed and excited to see something from of their culture, thousands of miles from home, represented at ASU.
“Their reaction nailed it for me as to why this is absolutely critical,” Aska said.
“The students said this is a delicacy in their country, and they were completely floored that it was here. It was absolutely wonderful because it educated me about something that was important to them. And it affirmed that we know they are here.”
Aska said that the event’s longevity and popularity is no surprise given the culture of inclusivity at Arizona State University.
“The event has flourished by helping to affirm for our students that they belong here and created an opportunity to celebrate who they are in this environment with their peers,” Aska said.
International Night is from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, on the Sun Devil Fitness Complex fields at ASU’s Tempe campus. The event is free, but attendees must register. The clear-bag policy will be in effect.
Students interested in learning more about the Coalition of International Students can connect with them on SunDevilSync.
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