Celebrating What Makes Us Human

NCC’s Annual International Student Celebration

Cynthia Tintorri,

It was an event designed to revel in similarities - good music, delicious food, lively dancing and pride in heritage -- not differences, when students from Northampton Community College gathered for an International Student Celebration on November 14. Sponsored by the International Student Organization (ISO), the annual event allows students to share information about their home countries and cultures with the NCC community.

The festivities kicked off with a parade of international flags, set to the United States National Anthem. A presentation on Puerto Rico that followed featured a live video chat with a professor and students at Interamerican University in Puerto Rico. Projected onto Lipkin Theatre's big screen, the live feed showed that in spite of the apocalyptic devastation left by Hurricane Maria, classes are still being held when possible. NCC student Mike Nieves told the Puerto Rican students about $300 the ISO collected to send to the university to help with hurricane relief.

A "day in the life" video showed NCC international students eating, playing pool, socializing, volunteering at the New York City Marathon, going camping, kayaking, dancing, and visiting in local homes. "This is what we need," said presenter Sarah Tyler, "more sharing - more peace and love between us."

After a Malaysian dance performance by students from that country, and a slide show on Colombia and its unique celebrations, a special guest took the stage. NCC and ISO alumnus Ahmed Awadalla traveled all the way from Egypt to be at Northampton's 50th Anniversary Gala, and to share with ISO members his experiences as a delegate to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq.

"There's so much going on in the world, and we need to learn about other people, to focus on our similarities and not our differences," Awadalla told the audience. "Education is the most important tool to do that, and this community college is the perfect place to get to know each other."

Awadalla learned English just six months before coming to NCC in 2008 to pursue a degree in electro-mechanical technology. He became very involved in the ISO, as well as serving in student government and helping to create the Model United Nations at NCC. It was a class in American government that ignited his interest in political science, and a change of career course after his NCC graduation. Awadalla earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Kutztown University, then a master's degree in international relations from the prestigious London School of Economics. He began working for the International Red Cross after serving as an advisor to the Egyptian government.

"Opportunities sometimes come only once, and you have to make the most of them," Awadalla advised. "In my country, you get assigned a profession or education based on your grades. Here, it's different. You can pursue your passion, study what you want. Take advantage of those opportunities," he urged students. "You have so many resources around you. If you travel around the world, you will find out that we need to appreciate what we have here. Don't take it for granted."

Awadalla stressed that everyone has a responsibility to reach out and understand others. "At the end of the day, there is a lot of conflict in the world. We need to focus on our similarities as humans, not our differences. Peace, prosperity, and a safer world will benefit everyone."

A beautiful Indonesian song sung by Fadriati Anugrah, an Indian Bollywood-style dance performed by Surbhi Kumari, and  presentations on Tunisia and Pakistani culture followed.

The event concluded with a heartfelt coda from Hajar Berziz -- "More love, less hate - together, may we make peace!" - and a buffet of international foods.