The International Dinner, the grand finale of International Education Week at Siena Heights University, did not always attract the attention it does now.
When it started in 2008, only 48 people attended. However, over the next three years those numbers skyrocketed. It went from 220 people in 2009 to approximately 375 in 2010. In 2011, the event was so large that it was moved to the SHU Fieldhouse, where more than 500 people, including students, faculty, staff and community members, gathered.
This year’s International Dinner is scheduled for Nov. 18 at the Fieldhouse on the main campus located in Adrian, Mich. The dinner begins at 5 p.m. and tickets are required to attend.
The International Dinner now has become a fixture on campus. Fatmy Abed, a native Venezuelan who was part of the initial staff who helped organize the event, said the primary goal was to educate students about different cultures. It has become so much more.
During International Education Week, students were given the opportunity to participate in various activities on campus. Movies and documentaries were played in the student union every night. Every day a dish from a different continent was served in the dining hall. Workshops highlighting an aspect of a different culture were conducted on campus.
However, the culmination of the week was the International Dinner. This year, 17 international students, Abed and Director of International Studies Daniel Morris, are aiming to attract at least 600 people to the dinner.
There will be food featuring 48 different dishes from countries all over the world. Those involved with the SHU’s International Club will provide one or two dishes from their homeland. As in previous years, there will also be musical entertainment featuring a variety of different cultural genres, a fashion show in which traditional clothing from various countries are modeled. Dancing is very popular after dinner. In fact, last year’s festivities went beyond the scheduled end time of 10 p.m. as participants stayed to salsa dance.
Despite all these cultural experiences, the dinner remains the main focus.
“It puts all of your senses to work,” Abed said.
Last year, Morris, a native of Brazil, prepared feijoada, a traditional dish from his homeland consisting of black beans and pork, usually served over rice. Several other families from the community cooked and donated a special indigenous meal from their land of birth to incorporate into the feast.
“We have had a lot of participation from the Adrian Dominican Sisters as well,” said Morris of the congregation that founded and sponsors the University. “Many of them have lived in or visited other countries, so this is very interesting for them.”
The community has become increasingly engaged with the International Dinner. Last year, nearly half of the 500 people who attended were faculty, staff, families and community members.
“Last year a family with about seven kids came early,” Abed said. “The children asked to be in the fashion show of traditional garb. They really wanted to model! So we let them.”
Abed said the International Dinner has become a way for community members to connect with the University in a new way. It is an opportunity to share in some kinship with the University, and Abed said they seem to be taking full advantage of it.
Abed describes the experience as “a big meal with just everybody. When you go, something will change. You will never forget it.”
To find out more about the International Dinner, contact SHU’s Office of International Studies at 517-264-7001 or email Dan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the schedule for International Education Week, which is Nov. 12-18:
Monday, Nov. 12
· 11 a.m.: Latin cuisine and music, Benincasa
· 4 p.m.: Spanish conversation and poetry reading, Dominican Hall Room 106
· 4 p.m.: Salsa lessons, Sage Union
· 7 p.m.: Movie: “Miss Representation,” Sage Union
Tuesday, Nov. 13
· 11 a.m.: European cuisine and music, Benincasa
· 4 p.m.: Origami workshop, Sage Union
· 7 p.m.: Movie: “Life in a Day,” Sage Union
Wednesday, Nov. 14
· 10:30 a.m.: Ten Thousand Villages international arts & crafts display, Benincasa hallway
· 11 a.m.: Middle East cuisine and music
· 4 p.m.: Ten Thousand Villages open forum, Rueckert Auditorium
· 7 p.m.: Movie: “Strangers No More,” Sage Union
Thursday, Nov. 15
· 11 a.m.: African cuisine and music, Benincasa
· 7 p.m.: Movie: “Invictus,” Sage Union
Friday, Nov. 16
· 11 a.m.: Asian cuisine and music, Benincasa
Sunday, Nov. 18
· 5 p.m.: International Dinner, Fieldhouse