Under dim lighting in the Compton Union Building Senior Ballroom, more than 100 students in gowns, suits and glittering masks watched cultural dance performances at the International Students’ Council’s (ISC) third annual iConnections event Friday night.
This year’s iConnections featured a European-themed masquerade ball along with an array of performances, including a Tahitian dance by the Pacific Islanders Club, stepping by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, a Bollywood-inspired Indian dance by Ms. Black AND Gold Ramya Ramanathan and swing dancing from WSU East Coast Swing.
The ISC is an ASWSU committee that offers international students a voice and also provides opportunities for them to get involved on campus.
“It is like, I would say, a venue to feel more at home because all of us international students … we all face the same things,” ISC President and junior microbiology major Thangeswary Paleswaran said.
The council offers several major events throughout the year, including "Party in the Park" at the start of fall semester, International Education Week in April and Friday’s iConnections social event.
iConnections began two years ago as a speed dating event. This year, the ISC wanted to find something bigger and more relaxed so students could interact without a three-minute limit, Paleswaran said.
Mew Boriratrit, international programming chair for ISC and a sophomore pre-pharmacy major, said they chose the masquerade theme because it would be comfortable for domestic students while offering many international students a new experience. She said the council wanted to give U.S. and international students a chance to get to know each other and learn about new cultures.
"When everyone wears a mask, there will be no barrier whether you’re domestic or international because everyone is wearing a mask,” Boriratrit said. “Most international students tend to be shy in front of domestic students probably because of the language difficulty, so they don’t normally want to talk that much. But if it’s within a fun atmosphere they should be more comfortable talking.”
Along with performances and an open dance floor, the event featured themed photo booths, prize giveaways, a best dressed contest and a cheesecake dessert.
Kelsey Hawthorne, a co-adviser for ISC, said the students on the council put a lot of planning into the event and she was pleased to see it become a success. The funds for iConnections are not included in the group’s annual budget so the students had to be resourceful, she said. Attendees paid $10 per ticket.
The event will continue next year and in the years following, Hawthorne said.
“I think it will also continue to evolve,” she said. “Last year iConnections was a speed dating event and this year it’s a masquerade, so who knows what it’ll be next year.”
Paleswaran said she hopes the current ISC leadership will leave a legacy with iConnections.
Gavin Nhieu, a junior biochemistry and microbiology major, said he attended the event for the opportunity to dress up, wear a mask and be someone else for a night. He spent some time on stage for the best dressed competition and although he did not win the $20 Swilly’s giftcard, he enjoyed the night, he said.
“It’s a cheerful atmosphere,” Nhieu said. “Everyone here is really friendly. Everyone is open to meet new people and the food’s really good, too.”
The ISC’s next event will be International Education Week April 9 through 13. Last year, the week featured more than 20 cultural events for students to participate in, Paleswaran said.
Boriratrit is involved with planning the International Education Week and said the five-day program will be ISC’s biggest event of the year.