International Nights: A Cultural Exchange at UH Hilo
A promoter’s job is to promote. So if one says purchase your tickets early because “the show will sell out,” it usually sounds like a tactic to sell as many tickets as possible.
But this wasn’t the case for the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo International Student Association’s International Nights.
The Friday and Saturday, Feb. 11 and 12, shows were both sold out—the line reaching far beyond the entrance and wrapping around the corner of the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center.
The show featured traditional performances from Hawaiʻi, France, China, Philippines, Japan, Yap, Samoa, Kiribati, Ireland, Kosrae, India, Chuuk, Palau, USA and the Marshall Islands.
“We aim to expose the campus and local community to the many different countries and cultures represented at UH Hilo,” said Jim Mellon, director of International Student Services and Intercultural Education at UH Hilo. “While UH Hilo and the Big Island are very ethnically diverse, it’s important that diverse groups of people interact with and learn from each other. This event is one way to try to inspire people to interact with and learn from people whom they might not know much about.”
And that’s just what the show did. It offered a chance for the performers to engage with one another and exchange their cultures while preparing for the show, during—and hopefully—after the show.
This stood true for the spectators filling the seats as well, as the show provided an opportunity to learn and experience important aspects of a people’s culture.
“It’s important for people to develop and maintain a strong sense of cultural identity and pride,” said Mellon. “It’s especially important these days for people to continue to be actively engaged with and learn from people from other cultures and other parts of the world and not be fearful of difference.”
Each performance started off with a speaker enlightening the audience with a brief glimpse into its country or state, people and culture.
“Cultural differences are most obvious in things like food, dress and performance, but by taking that first step to observe those differences, it’s easier to then start scratching deeper below the surface and gaining an understanding of less obvious cultural differences like values and beliefs,” said Mellon.
Then, by unraveling some of those underlying cultural values and beliefs, we can better understand each other,” said Mellon.
For those who hail from these places and are now attending UH Hilo or permanently live in Hawaiʻi, International Nights was an opportunity for them to enjoy a little piece of home.