Taylor Rocca, Roving Editor Ω
With more than 1,600 international students from over 80 countries enrolled at TRU, International Days is a truly special week. Running from Feb. 6 to 10, it was a weeklong celebration of campus cultural diversity featuring more than 65 events.
“It has basically grown every year,” said Krista Bergmann, event co-ordinator for International Days. “It is a celebration of all the countries and regions that are represented on campus.”
With approximately 13,000 students studying at TRU, 12.3 per cent are international students. For comparisons sake, the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) had a student body of 4,183 with 343 international students in 2009-10. The international student body represents 8.2 per cent of UNBC’s total student population.
“The reason we do International Days is to highlight this international education campus that we have evolved into,” Bergmann said. “It’s something that TRU is very proud of and we want TRU students to really understand the depth of [that].”
Planning for the event typically begins in October and goes on right through late January and the week leading up to the event.
“Usually the beginning of school year, September [and] October is when they do a call for participants,” Bergmann said. “If you want to be a performer, if you want to be in the fashion show, or if you want to do food then they [take applications] throughout [the school year] and up to the beginning of February.”
With such a large international student body, Bergmann said that the event rarely ever scrambles to find performers and participants.
“This year we had tons of people,” Bergmann said. “We don’t ever try to turn people away, we try to make everyone fit.”
Apart from the performers and participants, International Days relies heavily on student volunteers to chip in and help out along the way. This year, Bergmann was working with 132 volunteers to make sure the week went by with as few speed bumps as possible.
“Everyone has been amazing and everyone has done a fantastic job,” Bergmann said. “I had to turn people away. I had more volunteers than I ever imagined that we would have. It’s a great way to be involved.”
Volunteers don’t just get the opportunity to be involved in one of TRU’s most well-known events, they can also be eligible for credit towards Global Competency according to Bergmann.
Global Competency is a credential that can be earned in tandem with any credit program. It recognizes the globally-minded knowledge, skills and attitudes that students earn through educational experiences.
While guest scholars and keynote speakers are a significant part of the week, Bergmann said that International Days isn’t just about that.
“It’s not all just classroom lectures. A lot of students have this impression that it’s boring; it’s just more lectures, more classroom stuff,” Bergmann said. “That is a big part of it because we’ve brought in guest scholars from around the world but there are also a lot of other things.”
The International Tea Expo, Global Grind snowboard and ski demo, Global Kitchen Cooking Show and day-long International Showcase were just a few of the events that got students out of the classroom and immersed in a variety of cultural experiences and performances.
International guest scholars included Mr. Ivan Zavadsky, Dr. Dean Chan, Dr. Lena Dominelli, Dr. Arend Hardorff, Dr. Yaniv Belhassen and Dr. Martin Brokenleg.
The keynote speakers for International Days were Dr. Gwynne Dyer and Captain Charles Moore.
2012 marked the 19th year for International Days at TRU.
Devan C. Tasa, Omega Contributor Ω
The Arab Spring is the latest example of a world becoming more democratic through non-violent revolutions, said journalist Gwynne Dyer.
Dyer, the keynote speaker for the first day of TRU’s International Days, focused his speech on the recent wave of democratization happening in the Arabic Middle East.
“I’m happy about the world this year,” he said.
“We have seen the last region of the world bound by tyranny begin to free itself.”
When Tunisians had enough of their government and protested non-violently, it took three months for the country’s dictator to leave, according to Dyer. When that sentiment spread to Egypt, it only took three weeks for that country’s dictator to be deposed.
Non-violent revolution is effective at toppling governments because it gathers the support of those people who aren’t part of the ruling regime but are essential to the smooth day-to-day running of the government, according to Dyer.
But non-violent revolution is not without risk, he warns.
“Non-violence doesn’t mean that nobody dies, just that the protestors don’t kill,” Dyer said.
“[But] when the army gets tired of shooting people from their own community, it’s over.”
While the most famous non-violent revolution was India’s bid for independence from the British in the 1940s, other examples according to Dyer are the wave of democratization in Southeast Asia in the 1980s beginning in the Philippines, the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of apartheid in South Africa.
But there are some failures. The event at Tiananmen Square in China in the 1980s was an example of where non-violent revolution failed.
“It does not work every time,” Dyer said.
With that being said, 30 years ago two-thirds of the world’s population lived under dictatorships, but today two-thirds live in democracies, according to Dyer.
Kareem Ibrahim, an international student from Egypt studying fine arts, was pleased with the event.
“It strikes your heart. It makes you think,” Ibrahim said. “Coming from a man that was behind the lines and saw this happening, we need to stop and listen.”
Michael Potestio, Omega Contributor Ω
Dr. Dean Chan of the University of Wallongong was on hand Tuesday Feb. 7 to give a guest lecture on comics and Asian culture. In his lecture, Dr. Chan looked at all types of comics from web-based to the traditional print comics, discussing how Asian diaspora, or migrant, cultures are being produced in places such as Canada, America and Australia.
Chan said he is interested in his observations of how the medium of comics has facilitated intercultural communication, particularly in the last decade. Dr. Chan used the term graphic narratives as an umbrella term in describing all the different variations of comics, such as manga and graphic novels.
During the lecture Chan discussed how these comics bring Asian immigrant issues such as race relations into dialogue.
One American example Dr. Chan talked about was “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang. The example showed an awkward conversation between a Chinese-American boy and a Taiwanese boy. Chan said the example shows the tensions between newly arrived Asian immigrants and third or fourth generation Asian-Americans.
Another example Chan discussed was the comic “Shortcomings” by Adrian Tomine.
In this example Chan showed a page from the book where a Korean woman and Japanese man are discussing meeting the Korean woman’s parents, which Chan used as an example of the topic of race relations in an Asian-American context.
Chan also looked at Australian examples such as the “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan, which is a wordless comic that Chan said expects the reader to create the narrative. He also said the comic is a metaphoric re-telling of the challenges of migrating to a new land.
Dr. Chan finished with a Canadian example, “The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam” by Ann Marie Fleming.
Chan talked about the graphic novel, which he says describes the story of Fleming’s great grandfather, Long Tack Sam, using photos and graphic narrative to tell the story.
Chan talked about Fleming’s use of archival information and old fables about her grandfather, noting Fleming’s use of larger issues such as the Canadian head tax and the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act to provide a link between her personal family history and the larger Asian immigrant history.
Chan said this was his first trip to Canada and enjoyed being able to take in the cities of Kamloops and Vancouver as part of his first visit to the country.
“I was very struck when I arrived here at TRU that there is such a notable international student presence as well as the very culturally diverse local student grouping to begin with,” Dr. Chan said.
With that diversity, Dr. Chan hopes his lecture on intercultural communication had an impact on students.
“I would like my talk today which was about intercultural communication and fostering intercultural communication to resonate with students here,” Dr. Chan said.
Dr. Chan also works on digital gaming cultures, which has been a major focus for him since 2004. He is very interested in the phenomenon of digital gaming particularly in the Asian Pacific region and is currently working on research monographs on gaming culture in East Asia.
Marvin Beatty, Omega Contributor Ω
Captain Charles Moore, one of the world’s leading voices on the millions of tons of plastic waste now littering the oceans, gave an eye-opening presentation to an audience of at least 200 in the Irving K. Barber Centre at Thompson Rivers University Feb. 8.
Moore’s talk was just one keynote address for International Days, a week-long series of events organized by TRU World.
Moore made clear he believes the problem of plastic waste affects more than just marine environments.
“I’m here to talk about the age that we live in,” Moore said, “Which I think is pretty easily defined as the age of plastics. We drive in it, we live in it, our food is delivered in it, we wear it and it’s kind of crept up on us surreptitiously.”
Throughout the evening, Moore’s engaging speaking style helped explain the enormity of the problem.
Moore moved deftly between research graphs and tables to a mix of humour, knowledge and the occasional sly political reference.
Huge artificial reefs of plastic are allowing species to exist where they should not and Moore said plastics are entering the food chain, potentially altering the course of evolution.
“This material now is acting both as predator and prey in the ocean. It’s predating in the sense of tangling things,” Moore said, “and it’s acting as prey. It’s being consumed as if it were food. It’s a very good food fake.”
Moore wrapped up with a discussion about the consequences of consumerism and an increasing reliance on the plastics industry. He fielded questions from the audience for more than a half hour.
Moore’s current research focus and topic of a new book, Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans, looks at a better understanding of the magnitude of the plastic industry, including the effects of plastic on human health.
Sarah MacMillan, Omega Contributor Ω
Education leaders from across the world met in an open forum on Friday, Feb. 10 at TRU to discuss the importance of international students on campus.
The panel, which consisted of education leaders from Canada as well as representatives from Saudi Arabia, China and Australia, focused on the benefits of the internationalization of post-secondary campuses.
During the panel, TRU President Alan Shaver listed five reasons for internationalization, all of which were reflected in the presentations of the other education leaders.
The first reason for having international students on campus, said Shaver, is that it’s an academic benefit. Challenges such as global warming require a multicultural approach and having international students on campus allow for new and different solutions.
Another added benefit of increased international presence is the cultural diversity that is brought to the campus.
“It takes us beyond ourselves,” said Majella Franzmann, pro vice-chancellor at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.
Internationalization also aids the economy, bringing money in while increasing Canada’s opportunity to trade internationally.
“International students, through their high tuition fees, help to build B.C. infrastructure,” Shaver said.
Having international students allows for universities such as TRU to offer greater numbers of courses due to the larger student population.
In addition, it prevents the courses being taught from being introverted, said Franzmann. Courses focus more on the world, rather than just one specific country.
Internationalization also creates what Shaver calls a ‘brain chain,’ where people are united around the world because of the contact they have made during their studies abroad.
These however, are not the largest benefits of internationalization.
“One of the biggest satisfactions and fulfillment I have taken from internationalization is the joy,” Shaver said, “the joy of learning.”
Kerlene Skretting, Omega Contributor Ω
A dash of creativity, a pinch of patience and a sparing amount of energy proved to be the recipe for success Thursday evening at the Campus Activity Centre.
Anita Lyapina, Alesya Sharay and Marina Savelyeva walked students through how to prepare three traditional Russian staples: olivier, Russian salad and pickled cabbage.
Elena Tsvetkova was the spokesperson for the first half of the evening.
“In Russia there are a lot of farms, and as a result an abundance of fresh vegetables,” Tsetkova said. “People cook at home rather than buying the fast food and processed goods that are common in North America.”
Those in attendance were given the opportunity to sample the cooking for themselves. All the food quickly disappeared and students begged for seconds.
Many present raved over how delicious the olivier was. It was a very natural fresh tasting salad. The flavours blended nicely, but you could still make out the individual ingredients.
Olivier is a traditional Russian dish, and is especially popular in the Eastern Bloc countries. It is made with diced potatoes, vegetables, eggs and meat and is dressed with mayonnaise. In many communities it is a common dish at New Years celebrations.
Russian cooking uses small amounts of spices compared to Canadian for just this reason. Vegetables all have natural flavours and add to a dish. Too much seasoning is overpowering.
Russians also add meat to many dishes. Traditionally it’s red meat if you lived away from the water and fish if you bordered the water.
“Our country is very cold. If it’s minus-35 and you live in a small isolated village, you’re not going to survive on veggies alone. You need meat, you need those calories,” Tsvetkova said, explaining why only about five per cent of the Russian population is vegetarian.
Two Indian dishes, coconut chicken curry, and potatoes and peas were also prepared for students to taste that evening.
The goal was to expose students to other cultures in a casual setting and encourage them to meet new people and enjoy good food that they probably had otherwise never tasted.
TRU World and the Russian Speaking Students Association hosted the Global Kitchen Cooking Show as part of International Days.
Ryley Unrau, Omega Contributor Ω
A Perspective of Global Harbour: When West Meets East is an incredible show of watercolour art by Taiwan-based artist Sue-Jane Chen, which ran all week in the TRU Art Gallery off Student Street in Old Main during International Days.
Located in the Old Main art gallery during International Days, the exhibit indeed evoked a nostalgic sentiment as promised. Chen’s work of vivid harbours and serene city lines in Portugal and Taiwan was described as using visual memory through intertextuality.
She uses her watercolour technique on different papers including shuan paper, canvas and traditional paper to demonstrate the unique ways they each absorb water and ink.
It brings the different dynamics of her style into focus.
Her sole piece on shuan paper was the exhibit standout. It depicts a dreary city harbour and is titled, “The Gloaming Lisbon.” Not only is it larger in size than the others but also in its depth, dream-like quality and Asian flare.
While some of the paintings displayed in the exhibit contain deep purple and jewel tones, the majority of her work depicts illuminating background sunsets with bright yellow, salmon and teal colours.
Illustrated individually in each of her pieces through magnificent pigmentation and great attention to detail are themes of international trade, the sweet sense of home and the West versus the East.
Placed among Chen’s artwork were three quotes tying each picture together to form a peaceful and mysterious atmosphere in the exhibit.
The most endearing of these small written pieces said, “A harbour is always a home for boats and ships [that] eventually come back to where they belong after their journey and missions are complete.”
It’s a great metaphor for life and perhaps for the process of Sue-Jane Chen as well, who has described breathtaking sentiment through her creations and brought it to Thompson Rivers University for all to see.
Taylor Rocca, Roving Editor Ω
After a week of international academics, cuisine, events, lectures and education, last week was capped off with a daylong celebration of cultural diversity during the International Showcase.
The International Showcase saw over 2,300 people come through the doors to take in the culmination of TRU’s International Days cultural diversity celebration according to Krista Bergmann, event co-ordinator for International Days.
“The [International] Showcase is the highlight event every year,” Bergmann said.
Held in the TRU Gymnasium, it was preceded by the annual International Flag Parade. The procession began in the Campus Activity Centre rotunda, eventually making its way out into Campus Commons before continuing past Old Main and up into the TRU Gymnasium.
Once the procession entered the gymnasium, the International Showcase was officially underway. The opening ceremonies featured a drum and dance performance courtesy of the Sage Hills Drum and Dance Group of the Tk’emlups Indian Band.
The showcase featured booth displays, an international fashion show, a food fair and cultural performances. It ran from approximately noon to eight o’clock.
Highlights of the cultural performances included the Sage Hills Drum and Dance Group and Raiden Taiko Drumming by the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Association. Wedged in the middle was a performance by the TRU World Rock Band, featuring student musicians from a variety of countries. The showcase was sent out on a high note with a performance by the TRU Bhangra Dance Team to conclude the evening.
Dance performances during the showcase came from places such as Africa, China, Columbia, India, Ireland, Latin America, the Middle East and Taiwan.
The fashion show included colourful traditional displays from places such as China, Columbia, Japan, Mexico, Norway and Saudi Arabia.
Booth displays were on site from Africa, China, Columbia, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Palestine, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Each booth had its own unique display of cultural clothing, spices, currency, board games and art as well as a representative to answer questions from curious passers-by.
The food fair featured Vietnamese subs and vermicelli provided by Donut King. Japanese sushi and bento boxes were also available as well as Indian butter chicken and samosa. Visitors could get a sampling of various Asian cuisines courtesy of Wok Box Asian Kitchen.
Harlen Chung is a second-year business student at TRU from Taiwan. He performed a modern hip-hop dance with Daniel Wu and Ethan Ng, both TRU business students from China. The group said that the atmosphere during the International Showcases was one of the best parts of the event.
Chung also said that International Days and the International Showcase are important for TRU because, “We can get to know everyone’s culture and everyone’s background.”