Recognized as a classic UT tradition and the International Student Association’s biggest event, this year’s Oscar-themed I-Dinner promoted diversity through cultural performances, traditional clothing and authentic food.
Consisting of 11 different cultural organizations and including students from all parts of the world in its overall composition, the University of Toledo celebrated its 41st Annual International Dinner March 25.
The night opened with an introduction video featuring members of ISA who shared a part of their culture through their languages. ISA showcased student group performances from several different countries including Nepal, South America, Philippines, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Iran and India.
As a form of appreciation, sisters Anna and Chloe Wagenhauser sang Natalie Merchant’s “Kind and Generous” to thank international students for bringing diversity to Toledo’s campus.
“We picked a song that we thought really encompassed how we feel about the great cultural diversity we have at UT,” said second-year bio-premed major Chloe Wagenhauser. “We’re very thankful to have people from different countries that really make UT a more colorful and beautiful place.”
Chloe Wagenhauser added that her favorite part from the night was Ritmo-Latino performed by the South American and Hispanic Students Associations. Their performance had her dancing the whole time.
Her twin sister, Anna Wagenhauser, a second-year economics major, shared that she enjoyed watching the fashion show and seeing all the different traditional clothing people wore.
Anna Wagenhauser liked how joyful and happy everyone was to be representing their countries. Even though they are all different, they are all still the same, she said.
“Diversity is a beautiful thing,” Anna Wagenhauser said. “People of different cultures can learn from each other and celebrate each other.”
By coming to these events, students can learn how to branch out to groups that are outside of their comfort zones. There’s a lot that can be learned from people who are different than you and that you didn’t know about from just being around people you share a similar culture with, Anna Wagenhauser said.
The sisters were honored that the president of ISA, Jose Viloria, asked them to perform. They hope to stay involved in ISA in the future.
The International Students Association has several umbrella organizations that help contribute to making I-Dinner a success each year. As a form of appreciation, ISA recognized the Vietnamese Student Association as the “most collaborative ISA umbrella organization” for the 2017 year.
Being one of the smaller student organizations consisting of only 20 to 30 students, vice president Bich Tram Nguyen and president Temima Nguyen were ecstatic to have won the award this year.
“We’ve been active on paper, but this is the first year we’ve done events, meetings and collaborations,” said third-year pharmacy major Temima Nguyen. “We thought what we were doing was small, but ISA recognized us for doing what we’re doing and its surprising that they even thought about us.”
In the past, VSA has collaborated with the Chinese American Student Association for the Lunar
New Year and supported the Filipino American Association through attending their meetings and events.
While other international organizations have been established at UT for a while now, VSA is still in its growing stages.
“We want to educate other people on our culture, and we want to expand to other people, not exclude them because they are not Vietnamese,” Temima Nguyen said. “We want to be a good representation of other East Asian cultures.”
Second-year biology major Bich Tram Nguyen added that VSA has friendly members open to everyone. She encourages students interested to learn about them to follow them on social media, @VSAToledo.
First-year master’s philosophy student Khalid Abdl-Haleem performed Dabke to showcase Arabic dancing. Having been rehearsing since the second week of February, the brothers of Alpha Lambda Mu were pleased with the outcome of their performance and response they received from the crowd, Abdl-Haleem said.
Being a newer organization founded last semester, Abdl-Haleem said the group was happy to contribute to the event and show who they are.
“It’s about expressing yourself and being proud of expressing yourself,” Abdl-Haleem said.
He added that I-Dinner teaches students how to connect with different cultures while working with their own group.
Secretary of ISA and second-year global studies major Isabel Abu-Absi said that making I-Dinner a success was an undertaking. The group had been preparing it for months in advance, yet there was still so much that needed to be done until the very last minute.
However, even though it was a lot of work, Abu-Absi said it was rewarding to see a super responsive audience of almost 600 people attend.
Starting off as a volunteer for ISA during her first semester at UT and now taking on the role of a secretary, Abu-Absi said that when she’s not busy with school or work, she spends her time hanging out with her friends in ISA.
“It’s impossible to leave I-Dinner without making at least one new friend and without learning at least one new thing,” Abu-Absi said.