UB Celebrates Its 43rd Annual International Festival

University of Bridgeport students at the 43rd Annual International Festival

This past Friday, the University proudly held its 43rd Annual International Festival. The event is divided into two parts: the first being a potluck serving a diverse medley of foods and cultural display tables set up by UB students, the second being a series of performances, including song, dance, and more.

Emcees August Modiga and Jewayen Thompson, representing South Africa and the U.S. respectively, introduced the festival as an “event representing the coming together” of over 80 different countries that UB’s students hail from. This was followed up by a vibrant flag procession, each one carried by a UB student showing pride for his or her country of origin, as the talented Gospel Choir sang a rousing opening song. Accompanying the beautiful music were Nikolai Corey on the drums, and Eva Ray on the piano.

Edina Oestreicher, the dean of students, shouted out a “hello” in eight different languages representing the different countries featured in the upcoming performances. In her welcoming remarks, she commented on how the International Festival initially “started out as a potluck dinner.” Quoting Saint Augustine, she concluded by saying, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

The UB K-Pop Club kicked off the event with an energetic dance performance from students Aamyah Watson and Jung Soo Moon. Next was a dance by the Saudi Student Club (three students who are also cousins), which ended with a limbo beneath the Saudi Arabian flag. Representing Cambodia, Chanbouto Serik passionately sang “I Believe in Angels” by ABBA, which Modiga described as “a song that represents internationalization.”

UB’s own Sovereign Knights Drumline came up next with an amazingly coordinated, rapid-fire drum performance. The club’s four members alone managed to create enough sound to fill the entire theater with a pulsing rhythm.

Next, Mansi Vera, a graduating Naturopathic medicine student, performed an elegant solo dance representing her home country of India. One of the only non-musical performances came next with a student from the UB Martial Arts Program, representing the U.S., impressively chopping wood blocks with his bare hands and feet.

India was once again represented by a trio of female students, dancing in near-perfect coordination. Their dance included several costume changes, flowing scarves, balloons, and flower petals in the colors of the Indian flag. United We Step, a student dance group with roots in African culture, performed next with a dance backed by no music, but the infectious rhythm generated from the students’ own feet.

Next came a brief intermission, as the Emcees polled the audience to name ten African countries, and Thompson (who is also a member of SLAM) read a stirring poem about his experience coming to the U.S. as an international student.

After the intermission, the event continued with students Soknim Soeng and Chanbouto Serik performing a traditional form of Cambodian dance using coconut shells. Next was a dance performance representing Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) by five students. Representing Ethiopia, three female students in beautiful white traditional clothing danced using mostly quick shoulder movements.

Phuntsho Choden, UB’s only student from the Kingdom of Bhutan, performed a charming Butanese dance, blending classical and modern styles. U.S. American Melany Smeriglio, a graduating senior and UB’s Zumba instructor, danced to “Yesterday” by the Beatles.

Two students hailing from India, Janardhan Sutram and Devtosh Dubey, performed a multi-part song, first in their native Hindi, second in English, featuring an audience participation portion when Sutram sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Sutram appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for singing.

The next performance was a trio from Ireland, putting on an impressive traditional Irish step-dance routine. Again from South Korea, members of the K-Pop club (Joohee Choi and Yesun An) danced to the song “Rollercoaster” with what Modiga described as the epitome of “precision.”

As the last solo performance representing the U.S., Bridgeport native and lifelong singer Aleecya Foreman sang her favorite song by Sam Cooke, dedicating it to Black History.

To close the evening’s performances, the University Singers, led by Dr. Frank Martignetti, sang three beautiful numbers they had been practicing all semester: “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” “Stars I Shall Find,” and “This is Me” from the film The Greatest Showman, featuring a solo from Virginia Semeghini.

At the end of the show, the contest winners were announced: in first place, the student group from Ethiopia; in second place, the UB Sovereign Knights Drumline; and in third place, the Irish step-dancing performance. The award for Best Table went to the Indian student group.

Photos from the International Festival

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