Ten percent of Bowdoin students hold an international passport or come to the College from out of the country.
But Bowdoin’s international population can’t be reduced to an admissions statistic, and many of these students find a vibrant community in Bowdoin’s International Club (I-Club).
Most international students belong to the I-Club. A large portion of the Club’s membership is made up of students from China, but Cambodia, South Korea, and Brazil are also represented. American students are also welcome to join, as the club encourages a cross-cultural forum in which these students can engage.
This week the I-Club hosted its annual International Week, which continues through Sunday.
“You could say it’s a tradition, but it’s done differently every year,” said Ivy Xing ’15, president of the club.
Budgetary concerns have recently inhibited the I-Club. The club hit a roadblock about a month ago when it petitioned the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) for $2,500 to fund the week’s events.
When the club’s leaders went before the SAFC, they were asked to try reducing the amount of funding they requested and seek alternative funding from Leana Amaez, associate dean of multicultural student programs.
Charlie Cubeta ’13, vice president of the SAFC, said, “The amount they were requesting for the talent show was four times what we gave them last year.”
The club returned to the SAFC with a request of $1,740 and received $1,255.
The group proceeded to get funding from several other campus offices and departments, including Dean Amaez’s office, the Department of Romance Languages and the Off-Campus Study Office.
“I feel like there is a little bit of bias,” Xing said. “When certain events become well known, they usually get approved more quickly, I think, and I understand why. But at the same time, there are other events that are aiming to become traditions and attract a vast pool of students.”
“I think there are traditions on campus that stay strong and if they have increased support, then it is pretty easy to fund them again. With any new event it’s about incremental steps,” said Cubeta.
Although the I-Club requested four times more money than last year, the SAFC decided to give the I-Club only twice as much and then re-evaluate next year.
Cubeta noted that of the amount they funded, “$985 was towards the talent show, which still represented a significant increase on our part in terms of funding. Our initial concern with the high cost with this was that a lot of the money was going towards Dining charges even though they weren’t providing food.”
The I-Club will provide food for the event from Brunswick restaurants not only to have a range of cultural cuisines, but also because catering from Dining Services is more expensive.
“Part of our decision was that we knew I-Club has access to other pots of money on campus,” Cubeta said. “Some of the deans are interested in funding their activities because they’re a multicultural group. While it’s the SAFC’s responsibility to support student activities and intitiatives, we felt that the cost of their event was higher than what we felt comfortable funding,” he added.
Although the I-Club’s attempts to run large-scale events has been inhibited by a challenging funding process, Xing increased the number of officers to 12 to handle the workload.
The club hosts certain events every year as part of this series, such as the International Catering event tomorrow night in Daggett Lounge. Xing said the club met before Spring Break to brainstorm new events.
This year, International Week included an event titled “Cultural Games and Crafts,” which took place on Monday evening in Smith Union. Club members prepared different stations to share cultural experiences. For example, students from China taught attendees calligraphy, while others led a multilingual greeting card station and games of Chinese checkers. Students were invited to play a “French Fish Game,” in which students designed paper fish to stick on the backs of unsuspecting friends in the spirit of April Fools.
Other events this week included the International Trivia Night in Jack Magee’s Pub last night, and a lecture by Professor Leah Zuo on Chairman Mao.
“We try to invite professors from different departments to represent different parts of the world and give people information either about current events, history, culture or language,” said Xing.
“Last year it was mostly about Eastern European culture,” she said. “This year, we are more focused on the history of China.”
At tomorrow night’s International Catering and Talent Show, eighty students and professors will sample international cuisines catered by local restaurants. Following the dinner, students in the I-Club will share music performances that represent Chinese, Vietnamese, French and Latin American cultures.
Sunday night, students will share stories about international experiences. These will discuss various countries and events: Summer Xia ’16 will share about the Shanghai World Expo and Lucy Luo ’16 will discuss the London Olympics.
While International Week offers a slew of events in a short period of time, the I-Club also hosts smaller events and weekly dinners on Friday nights attended by 10 to 20 students—only a small fraction of the 500 on their email list. For many international students, this gathering is an opportunity to connect with others for whom Bowdoin is far away from home.
Many international students also unite at the annual International Potluck Dinner. This event invites international students and faculty to cook dishes from their home country and share it with others.
“I thought the students really felt the connection with other countries,” Xing said. “It really evokes a kind of nostalgia for their own culture and hometown because they are able to cook their own food as they do at home.”
In addition to this year’s International Week and International Potluck Dinner, the club is planning on inviting a former CIA Analyst to speak to students in early May.