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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

ISO celebrates International Week with student performances, workshops and business panel

International Week ran from Oct. 23 to 28 to highlight the diverse cuisine, culture and people that make up the ISO.
International Week ran from Oct. 23 to 28 to highlight the diverse cuisine, culture and people that make up the ISO.

Each year, the International Student Organization (ISO) celebrates the diverse and rich cultures of the international community at Middlebury with a designated International Week. 

Centering around this year’s theme of “Radiance,” the week of Oct. 23 to Oct. 28 was filled with a series of events organized by ISO members. The week’s events included a business panel; poetry and calligraphy workshops; and food-focused programs such as a Haitian feast at a local resident’s home and an international food festival. Performances included an international karaoke night and the beloved annual ISO show, which featured dance and fashion performances. 

The international community on campus has thrived through a robust tradition of ISO events, which offer underclassmen support through a strong student network, according to Vlera Hasani ’24.5, one of the speakers on the ISO business panel. 

“It is so rewarding and satisfying to see this event being carried through the years and feeding back into future generations of the international community,” Hasani said. 

Professional development events through the ISO such as the business panel began two years ago. As a panelist, Hasani shared her experience applying and being recruited as a summer analyst for sales and trading at Citibank.

“It is way more difficult for international students to get jobs and internships no matter what  industry you’re applying to,” Hasani said. 

Along with fellow panelists Adil Alvi ’24, an incoming investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs, and Huthefa Maalim ’24.5, who served as a summer associate at Boston Consulting Group, where he will work again this summer, Hasani shared information and advice on the application process, networking strategies and personal experiences in an effort to help other international students navigate their own career and internship journeys.

“It felt rewarding to be able to reciprocate and to pass on the generosity I’ve received in the past by helping other international students and giving them some advice I wish I’d known,” Hasani said. 

Anna Matsuzawa ’27, a first-year student who attended the business panel, expressed her appreciation for the event and hoped that the tradition will continue in future years. “All the panelists experienced different things within the field of business and consulting, so I was able to get to know different paths, but they explained them very precisely so that I could understand the differences and the processes very well,” Matsuzawa said. 

Coming together and learning from other international students about traditional arts and practices was one of the main goals of the week’s events. Meïssa Atmani ’26 shared her excitement about organizing a henna workshop with the Muslim Students Association and co-hosting the Arabic calligraphy workshop with the Arabic house. 

“As a board member of WANAS (West Asian and North African Students), it was so sweet seeing so many different calligraphy stations that allowed students to appreciate the beauty of calligraphy art while learning about each others' cultures and language,” Atmani wrote in an email to The Campus. “I would say that the cross-cultural connections that we had with [the Muslim Student Association] and the Arabic house allowed us to celebrate our culture and its beauty in a way that gave a place for WANA Students to enjoy our similarities while celebrating those differences.”

As the ISO week events have attracted a larger audience and more participants over the last four to five years, the organizers faced more complications in advertising and communication. 

“Since marketing is time-sensitive, there was a lot of stress to publish all the materials in time. However, because a lot of the details for our week were not settled until late, we had to keep pushing back our deadline for the marketing materials. Also, a lot of our members are new to the team and new to Adobe Illustrator. I am proud that they were able to learn and adapt quickly,” said Changchang Ma ’26, the director of marketing and communications for the ISO.

Organizing such a feat could have detracted from her experience at the actual events, but Ma said she still enjoyed the planning process of the ISO week.

With many of its board members from previous semesters studying abroad, the ISO had fewer experienced leaders on campus, making it more difficult than in past years to organize large-scale events and communicate logistics. 

“It was a long process to filter and curate a diverse set of events we want to and are capable of presenting to the community,” said Maya Teiman ’25, co-president of the ISO. “It was a big challenge to coordinate events that genuinely felt interesting and feasible for our club members to host and the community to participate. We want it done as collaboratively as possible, and we are generally happy with our result.”

The food festival on Sunday concluded the busy week, providing a space of appreciation for various cuisines prepared and presented by students. The food festival was so popular and grew to include so many different types of food, it originally had to be postponed to allow more time to acquire all the ingredients, according to Ma. Eventually, she said, it was a great success.

Co-hosting a station featuring  traditional noodle dish from Shaanxi, China, Lynn Yan ’24.5 described the satisfaction she felt from cooking for the community. 

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“At first I was hesitant for fear of cultural appropriation as it is difficult to bring out the fullest of the dish given various limitations and to introduce and educate an audience that doesn’t necessarily have exposure to the flavors and the history of the food,” Yan said. “ I personally felt very happy when people started lining up and waiting patiently at our station wanting more, even though we couldn’t cook that fast.” 

Ultimately, the food festival’s main goal was for students to take a break from their busy daily schedules and provide a space to show appreciation for the diverse cuisine, culture and people that make up the ISO. 

“It’s nice because it’s not just us presenting to an American audience, but it’s also us learning and enjoying each other’s unique cultural traditions, and for all of us, it’s really not about having to know every single detail and information about the food, but more to have the chance to be together to talk, bond, and have fun,” Yan said.

Editors’ Note: Changchang Ma ‘26 is an online editor for The Campus.