United Nations Day
The most diverse school in America celebrates its international students with United Nations Day
Associate Editor Clara Scheidle
Photography Editor Mirei Sugita
Editor’s Note: Mirei Sugita is the Photography Editor for Ke Kalahea.
United Nations Day begins on the Library Lanai with a cluster of tables set up, each one representing a different nation. Every single one of these tables is manned by international students, intent on representing their nation and its culture. Some have chosen trifold boards to show their countries, others have chosen to display traditional items, and some have chosen to do both. The tables themselves are interactive and prompt questions.
The International Students Association (ISA), which puts on this event, decided this year to add an extra incentive to being curious and conversational. At their table, ISA volunteers hand out small red booklets–designed by the UH Hilo Graphics and Duplication Services to look like passports–that students are to fill with stamps and stickers by taking them to each table and learning about one of the represented countries. After this, the countries’ representatives will ask a relevant question based on the information the student has just learned, and if they get it right, they get a stamp! Getting 10 or more stamps elicits a special prize from ISA.
There are a few tables that are not representing countries–these are for UH Hilo’s International and National exchange programs, attending U.N. Day to spread information about studying abroad, as well as the United Nations Association USA Hawaiʻi. Manning this last booth are Keola Downing and Ruth Robinson, the latter of who is a retired director of International Student Services and Intercultural Education at UH Hilo. They are here, eagerly recruiting students into the UNA USA Hawaiʻi youth program, which aims to keep students involved and aware of the U.N.’s activities. Robinson comments that she appreciates all of the student’s energy, adding that youth “seem to be leading in terms of important issues,” when asked why it’s important that students get involved.
The big event of U.N. Day is the Parade of Nations, in which students with huge flags representing their countries walk from the top of the steps at Campus Center down to the Library Lanai. Sinarleen Peres, the ISA secretary, introduces the parade as “a reminder for us to acknowledge and support human cultural diversity.” During the students’ descent from the stairs, the hosts of the event, Peres and ISA’s Social Media Coordinator Masasinge “Singeh” Hideos, read out a description of the country, highlighting some of its people’s culture and traditions as well as what the country is known for. These descriptions were all written by students, either of the past or present, adding a personable touch to the overall message. Many of the representatives opted to wear clothes traditional in the nation they represented, another cultural element that really drew the parade together.
There are students from more than 40 different countries attending UH Hilo, making it the most diverse school in the United States. “We are truly fortunate to be able to live, study, and learn with such an amazingly diverse group of students,” Peres announces to the those gathered on the lanai.
The end of the Parade of Nations marks the beginning of a stunning performance from the UH Hilo Samoan Club. Their energy and skill made many passers-by stop what they were doing in order to watch the rest of the dance.
ISA President Mirei Sugita says that U.N. Day is a great way of demonstrating the bountiful diversity at UH Hilo. “You could be sitting next to an international student in your classes, and you would never know unless you asked,” she says. Sugita continues that giving international students a time and place to express themselves is a great way to get to know a part of them that otherwise may have remained unsaid.
Sugita adds that diversity is a vital component of university life, especially at UH Hilo. “It’s not necessary for us to be the same in order for us all to unite,” she says. “The differences in the room are what make us stronger as a community.”
Mirei Sugita would like to give a shout out to ISA Adviser Jim Mellon and other ISA officers for making this day possible, as well as a huge thanks to everyone who participated in this event.