International Student Organizing Committee hosts Global Fest


On April 22, the International Student Organizing Committee held its second annual Global Fest on Skinner Green. Upon arrival, visitors were given passports guiding them through the various booths. 

The event commenced with a holi powder fight in which participants were doused in an assortment of vibrant colors. Booths represented various student organizations like the MHC Asian American Students in Action and the Climate Justice Coalition. Expanding from last year’s Global Fest, ISOC also reached out to individual international students to represent any relevant organizations or groups from their home countries. 

The booth representing Mount Holyoke African Caribbean Students Association informed visitors of historically notable women of African and Caribbean descent. French Club invited participants to play a trivia game related to Francophone countries, and Pencils of Promise sold cake pops to benefit the education-based nonprofit. At each booth, visitors were given stickers to mark their passports and after accumulating a certain amount they could return to the front table and redeem a Global Fest tote bag.

An ongoing raffle periodically selected visitors to win $4 coupons redeemable at either the Korean food truck or the popsicle stand. The event also showcased dances and songs featuring student voices and instruments. 

The International Students Journal,  a division of ISOC, featured the narratives of international students, recognizing the lack of representation in the Mount Holyoke archives and aiming to make changes in the future. ISOC member Isabelle Tan ’18 said, “This booth is to showcase all of the different entries from international students … to tell people these are the memories and this is how international students feel about the new environment.” The table displayed both written and visual contributions to the publication. To receive a marked passport, participants wrote their reaction to a featured work and the journal committee collected it. 

In addition, a photo project entitled This is My Name was displayed at the festival. It explored the frequent modifications and alterations international students make to their names when coming to Mount Holyoke. It was the second installation of a photo project from last year by ISOC co-chair Lynn Shen ’19, documenting objects of worth from different international students. Shen collaborated with Lydia Cheah ’20 to create the exhibition.

The photos showed students holding colorful signs with their names accompanied by captions that reflected on their experiences with their names and identities. “It is kind of crazy to think because you were basically born with that name, your parents gave it to you, and now you don’t have it,” Cheah said. In curating the photography, participating students discussed the meanings of names and how they are used. 

Cheah noted that changing international names is often more nuanced, “Some people discover new parts of their identity and therefore want to give themselves a new name that they didn’t feel like fit them as well.” Shen added a personal aspect to this. “My given name by my parents carries a lot of meanings,” she said, “for a long time it has been almost the default of who I’m meant to be.” Shen described how changing one’s name was “like growing out of an expectation that was put on you.”

According to Tenzing Yangla Lama ’17, co-chair of ISOC, the O in their acronym used to stand for Orientation, and the group worked only during new student orientation rather than throughout the year. The official switch occurred about three years ago. Lama said, “There are all these cultural orgs but it is not the same thing as having a space talking about specific international student needs.”  

The committee organizes events related to the international community and also makes these events available to domestic students. Events often include open mic nights in collaboration with Thirsty Mind. The committee also organizes events during breaks when many international students remain on campus. 

Lama has been part of ISOC since her sophomore year and said that the organization put on a small Global Fest that year, on what was formerly the Lantern Green. However, last year ISOC made the decision to expand the event. She invested personal interest and commitment to the event this year. “I was specifically on the Global Fest team because I wanted to make this a larger event,” she explained. The bulk of the work was completed last semester, including reaching out to food truck businesses andMount Holyoke students and clubs. Clubs were allowed to make finishing touches for the event this semester.

 Although Lama will be graduating this year, she hopes that the event and the committee’s presence will continue to grow, “We want to expand it to not just showcasing diversity, but to actually teach the community, and for students [who are] already a part of these communities to have support.” 

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