International Banquet continues Japan aid

Combining everything from ‘Nsync to the classical art of Thailand fruit carving, the annual International Banquet represented students from more than 10 countries Saturday night in the TSC Ballroom.

MCs Armen Hovsepyan and Gohar Petrosyan kicked off the night, themed “Step into our World,”  by introducing Angela Martinez, a graduate student who was inspired by her son Keenan Nuehring, the administrative assistant of ASUSU, to get involved with STEPS. STEPS is a newly formed club that is working to raise $15,000 for victims of the Japan tsunami. As of Saturday night, she said the group had raised just more than $12,000.

“STEPS is an amazing organization because they jumped right on it,” said Christian Orr, president of the International Student Council (ISC). “Keenan Nuehring and his group have been planning their organization for a really long time, and this is a good opportunity for them to not only be involved on campus but in the world. That was inspiring myself and the council.”

A portion of each ticket sold will go directly to STEPS, who will turn the money over to the Japanese Red Cross.

Included in the 10 events on the program were dances from the African and Chinese Student Associations, a fashion show and a performance of the ‘Nsync song “You’re Gone” by Dominican Republic student J.C. Almonte.  At the end of the night, The African Student Association took home an award for the student association of the year for their work with the Children of Ethiopia Education Education fund. Ordell Neally was presented with the Student of the Year for his sacrifice and extreme dedication to the international student council.

Vineet Lakhlani, last year’s ISC president, said the International Banquet is a culmination of every event of the year. This, he said, is the only time that all international groups can come together to plan an event.

“There are a bunch of associations … but there is only one event,” he said. “It is the last banquet of the year. It not only encompasses all of the continents represented at USU but it gives the essence of what the international student body is, unity and diversity. This is what the international student council tries to achieve, to make USU a better home for current and prospective international students.”

Prateek Bhatnagar, financial chair for the ISC, said the ISC is trying to bridge the gap between domestic and international students through the banquet.

“The International Banquet is the biggest event of the year,” he said. “We want this thing to be grand … we want this taken to everybody across the campus.”

The banquet originated from the Cosmopolitan Club, a group started in 1916 to help integrate international students into campus life. By the 1960s, the club consisted mainly of international students. When the Cosmopolitan Club ended, the ISC took over its responsibilities.

“The banquet has been going on for around 50 years,” said Garrett Bates, cultural vice president of the ISC. “We saw a need need to do something, and as international student council it would be irresponsible of us to not do something.”

The diversity in Logan makes events like the International Banquet thrive, Lakhlani said.

“Obviously, we live in a culture where there are a lot of students who have served missions or what not, so they have international exposure,” he said. “This is the best way for them to interact with people from different areas. I think it’s a stepping stone towards more collaboration, more inter-cultural collaboration.”

The banquet is about coming together as one student body, Orr said.

“We’re growing, expanding and realizing there’s more than civility when we’re living together,” he said.

– allee.evensen@aggiemail.usu.edu

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