Around the World encourages diversity

The Office of Global Affairs hosted Around the World, an event held at William W. Philip Hall Nov. 16, as part of International Education Week. The event allowed students, faculty and staff to connect with and observe the diversity of Tacoma and the student body.

At the event, 12 tables were set with presentations from student volunteers exhibiting their cultures of Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, China’s mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. Visitors traveled from table to table at their leisure to speak with each county’s representative, receive small tokens of that heritage — such as good luck charms — and try small treats and traditional snacks. Other tables had representatives from the Office of Global Affairs available to provide information about study abroad programs.

Visitors also had the chance to vote on a photo contest featuring pictures taken by students traveling abroad. Autumn Diaz’s photograph of Cape Town from across a body of water won the vote.

At each table, students got their “passport” stamped, and then could trade in the passport for a plate of food inspired by global cuisine while enjoying the scheduled performances. The performers were the Tacoma Fuji Taiko, Maori musician Rob Thorne and a traditional Chinese dance performed by international student Amy Zhu.

Amber Hallberg, international student advisor from the Office of Global Affairs, and Syndra Feng, a Global Affairs Fellow, helped organize the Around the World event.

“We brought in artists from the community, because UWT is an urban serving campus,” Feng said. “We want this event and our programs to allow for a cultural exchange by acting as a cultural bridge between the local students, the surrounding community and international students on campus.”

Wendy Hamai, a taiko drummer and spokesperson for Fuji Taiko, explained that taiko means “big drum” in Japanese. According to Hamai, up until the 60s the taiko was only played as a solo performance, but eventually became a group instrument.

“It was so popular, because it strongly contradicted the common stereotype of the Japanese as quiet, calm people,” said Hamai. “And so, it became a loud, powerful expression of cultural heritage.”

Tacoma Fuji Taiko is a percussion performance group that is a volunteer group sponsored by the Tacoma Buddhist Temple located on Fawcett Avenue. This is Fuji Taiko’s fourth performance for UWT events. The group played five songs on six different taiko drums, and each song held a certain significance to the performance group and taiko heritage, which the group was eager to share with the UWT community.

“Having our Temple on the UWT campus grounds, we have and will always maintain a close connection with UWT,” said Robert “Bobby” Yotsuuye, Fuji Taiko performer and songwriter. “We always look forward to supporting our hometown University. Having 4 Huskies, past and present, performing this year, we always enjoy our time at UWT, GO DAWGs.”

The second performance was by Maori musician and anthropologist Rob Thorne from New Zealand. Thorne played several small instruments made of natural resources such as stones and hollow bone. Hallberg enjoyed Maori music, finding it calming.

“It was extremely soothing, like something you would hear in a spa,” she said.

The third performance was a simplified version of the traditional fan dance from China. Amy Zhu’s dance expressed a story of a girl that wanted to be loved but was too afraid to express her feelings.

The Around the World event’s success was dependent upon the cooperation of the student body, especially the international students, the diversity of the Tacoma community and the faculty, staff and organizations of UWT.

“I would really like to thank the First Gen Fellows, particularly Kristi Soriano-Noceda, and the campus event fund for their support of the event,” Hallberg said. “They were very instrumental in helping us with Around the World.”

The Office of Global Affairs has created opportunities outside of International Education Week for international students to connect with the community, and for local students to connect with international students.

The International Student & Scholar Services office, a subdivision of the Office of Global Affairs, coordinates trips and events for international students to become better acquainted with Washington state, their current home. A group of international students travelled to tour downtown Seattle in October. Another trip is being put together in December for students to attend the Christmas lighting festival in Leavenworth.

The International Student & Scholar Services has recently launched the Global Ambassador Program that matches local students with an international student. The group is expected to get together at least monthly as a support group for student camaraderie. The members are also expected to attend monthly meetings that create conversations addressing themes of social justice issues through a global lense.

“It’s a monthly meeting for international students with a local campus partner so that they can exchange information on the area and to get to know each other,” Feng said.