International Student Festival in Vladivostok
On Campus at VGUES
Last week, Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service hosted an International Student Festival to showcase the wide diversity of students who live and study in Vladivostok. The theme of the festival was “Я учусь в России,” or “I study in Russia.” The festival lasted over the course of two days, and featured competitions, exhibitions, performances, and demonstrations.
Prior to the opening ceremony, a small exhibition area opened for crafts and cultural demonstrations. The highlights here were the Asian calligraphy and tea ceremony, a craft table for making traditional Russian dolls, and a presentation of the ancient Chinese game of strategy, “Go.” All of the tables encouraged interaction, so it was easy to ask questions, make a doll, or even play a game of Go if you were interested.
The main event of the International Student Festival was spread over two days and held in the main auditorium at the university. The opening ceremony featured some quite well choreographed dances and excellent musical numbers, featuring balalaikas (of wildly varying sizes), accordions, zhaleikas, and hand drums.
After the opening ceremony, the stage was turned over to the student groups from Vladivostok’s different universities. More than a dozen countries were represented, hailing from across Asia, Europe, and Africa. Some of the students prepared dances and songs from their adopted host country of Russia, donning traditional costumes. Other students brought a small piece of their home culture to Russia. Among the most fascinating performances were throat singing from Mongolia, original compositions for the piano, and freestyle dancing.
During the second day of the festival, the university hosted a international culinary contest. Students prepared dishes from their home country and submitted them to a team of judges. As the dishes were served to the judges, each country made a short presentation about their food, focused on its significance and how to eat it, if there is a specific method. From the 8 or so submissions, a German-made quiche won first place. I talked to the chef, Lawrence, afterwards, who said that he was surprised because he didn’t have a lot of cooking equipment available to him in the dormitories.
The final event of the festival returned to the main auditorium for overall awards and encore performances by the best acts. Additionally, a literature contest took place alongside the festival, and a few of the winning entries were featured with dramatic readings or rehearsals. One thing I will say about these types of events is that the university is very thorough about recognizing everyone who participated. Between this and a talent show that I attended last fall, it is clear that every person who participates will be brought on stage and given a certificate. Once the participation certificates are issued, the awards are passed out. Although performances are interspersed to break up the tedium, the shows last a long time. Both that I have attended went between three and four hours, and it becomes difficult to be enthusiastic about each award and performance after a certain point.
After all is said, however, it was an enjoyable time. The chance to see the performances at the International Student Festival and talk to the students afterwards about their different traditions is not an everyday experience, so I was happy for the chance to see something new. Plus, I just might be a new fan of Mongolian throat singing!