Annual International Night: Crossroads of Culture


Keaton Riebel

The Winona State University International Club and International Student & Scholar Services teamed up to host a celebration of culture. Pictured above is Yujiro Nakano, a kendama World Cup champion. Nakano is one of many international students who performed for the audience.

Lillianna Van De Walker, Features Reporter

The Annual International Night brought students and staff together to celebrate the many cultures represented at Winona State University on Saturday, March 15 in the Kryzsko Ballroom.

Winona State welcomes many students from around the world into the community. With more than 41 different cultures represented amongst Winona State students, there was a lot to appreciate and celebrate. 

Oresta Felts, the interim director for the international student and scholar services staff, commenced the event by announcing this year’s theme for the: crossroads of culture. 

“Each of us has taken a different road to get here and this road may have been filled with hardships, difficulties, sometimes disappointments, but the same road may have been where we found support along the way,” Felts said. “Today, let’s celebrate the cultures that we have represented here and in the Winona area.”

Felts also recognized the honored guests who were attending the event which included Winona Mayor Scott Sherman, Winona State President Dr. Scott Olson, Associate Provost Dr. Ted Reilly and Vice President for Student Enrollment Management and Student Life Dr. Denise McDowell. 

President Olson was then welcomed on stage. As Olson expressed his gratitude to members of the Winona community he acknowledged the importance of the event and all the hard work put in that made it possible. He also addressed his gratitude for the international students who made the night so special.

“I know that Winona State is a much better place and I know the world is a much better place because you’ve had the courage to have an adventure like this,” Olson said.

Benard Ogbeche and Qasim Abbas, the MC’s for the event, initiated the night with an amusing opening that immediately engaged the audience. As they playfully introduced themselves, Abbas explained that he comes from Pakistan and is currently attending Winona State for one semester. Ogbeche then explained that he is from Nigeria and is currently attending Winona State for four years.

“Our task today is to mix up traditions from around the world to show the world that they look as beautiful individually as they do together,” Ogbeche said before announcing the first performance of the night.

The first performance was by Shubhani who is from Nepal and Tamin who is from Bangladesh. The two gracefully performed a Napalese dance to a mashup of Bengali, Napali and Hindi songs. 

Next to perform was Ujjwal Niraula from Nepal who was representing another Nepalese tradition. Niraula performed a poetry reading that was translated into English, called “Harka Bahadur” by Denish Adjikari, a famous poet in Nepal. 

Tanni who is from Bangladesh was next to perform. Tanni put on an impressive vocal performance of “Esho Hey” in Bengali. Accompanying Tanni on the piano was Elizabeth Pearse, a professor in the music department. 

Kotoko, who is Japanese, performed a Hawaiian hula dance entitled “Mahalo Everyone for Everything” by Appreciation Hula. This performance mesmerized the audience lots of “oohs” and “aahs”.

“I have no words. I am literally just going to demonstrate how I am feeling right now,” Ogbeche said as he proceeded to attempt a hula dance.

Yujiro Nakano, who is Japanese, performed a kendama demonstration. Nakano is a World Cup champion. Kendama is a skill toy that consists of a handle, a pair of cups and a ball. This act requires a lot of skill and the audience was dazzled by his performance.

After Nakano’s performance Abbas and Ogbeche announced that there would be a 15 minute intermission. During this intermission, the audience was encouraged to try out kendama as there were a few of the toys in the back of the ballroom for people to check out.

Following the intermission, Abbas and Ogbeche announced the next performance. This performance involved four students: Kokona, Meika, Yui and Yuka, who all performed a Japanese dance entitled “Japanese Dance Show”.

In addition to the performances, one of the highlights of the event was the variety of food served for those in attendance. Pictured above is Malia Hermerding and Josephine Strutz enjoying empanadas (Keaton Riebel)

The last performance of the night was a fashion show which featured beautiful and unique clothing presented from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

To wrap up the evening, audience members were dismissed to enter the back of the Kryzsko Ballroom where there were several street foods from around the world for people to try. The food that was available included dumplings, samosa and vegetarian egg rolls from Asia. From the Americas, there were churros, empanadas and Jumex. From Africa/the Middle East there was peanut soup and peri peri chicken skewers. Pierogies and Swedish meatballs were also available from the European station. 

“It’s a new way we’re doing it this year,” Rebecca Sims, a member of international student & scholar services staff, said. “We found in the past it was more like a dinner and what you got was what we had, but this is more of a choice and a lot more choices.”

Attendees received food tickets which could be redeemed for one portion of each food item. They were also welcomed to trade or share tickets with other guests.

After the event, Felts expressed her opinion on how the event went.

“I think I’m amazed by the confidence of the students on the stage,” Felts said. “I always really enjoy the performances and I hope that the people enjoyed it.”