International Festival Celebrates MC’s Diverse Student Body, Showcases Rich Cultural Heritage
Chi-Ying Lee understood early the importance of preserving the culture of her native Taiwan.
At age 6, Lee began to learn Chinese martial arts, fighting styles developed through the centuries in Greater China. For the next 14 years, she grew in her knowledge of the discipline and its traditions while practicing the hand-to-hand combat skills perfected by the ancients.
“Nowadays, most people (in Taiwan) think that learning western talent is more brilliant than learning the talent of our culture,” especially since “the trend of learning western talent has gone viral,” said Lee, a second-year graduate student from Taipei who is working toward her Master of Finance in Business Administration at MC. “It is important to learn the talent that’s related to Chinese culture. It is essential to be aware of who we are and where we are from.”
That’s why her mother encouraged Lee and her brother and sister to learn Chinese martial arts and study traditional Chinese musical instruments like the Pipa, a short-necked lute with a wooden belly heard prominently in Chinese opera orchestras, and Liuqin, a stringed mandolin with a pear-shaped body and higher range than the Pipa.
Although Taiwan is independent from China, “both of our ancestors came from the same Chinese region,” Lee said. “We have the responsibility of preserving and protecting our culture, and the duty of learning the skills and promoting our culture to let more people be aware of how fortunate Taiwanese people are to be blessed by our nation.”
Lee will have the opportunity to communicate that message to an American audience – and demonstrate her considerable skill in the full-contact sport – when she joins a host of MC students showcasing the richness of their respective countries during the International Festival at Mississippi College.
Sponsored by MC’s Office of Global Education, the annual celebration of MC’s diverse student body is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 14, in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall on the Clinton campus.
Lee is a dual-degree graduate student from MC’s partner school, Chung Yuan Christian University in Chungli, Taiwan. Domestic students in the program can enjoy an immersive 10-week cultural experience at CYCU in the summer for a minimum charge, thanks to the Taiwan Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs grants obtained by the Office of Global Education.
As an officer in MC’s International Student Association, Lee said she is eager to let more people know about the culture of Taiwan.
“It doesn’t matter what they think of my performance – if they like it, I will be appreciative,” she said. “The goal is to let more people know about Chinese culture. I want people of different countries to gather together and respect each other’s culture and thoughts.”
The goal of the festival is to give students like Lee an opportunity to celebrate aspects of their heritage by performing eye-catching demonstrations that will captivate the Mississippi College community.
Although the Office of Global Education conducts several events throughout the year to honor worldwide holidays and promote fellowship among students, Mei-Chi Piletz, the office’s executive director, said the International Festival is unique because it is the largest – and the only performance-based – international exhibition at Mississippi College.
“The International Festival is a time for international students to showcase their respective cultures through singing, dancing, reading poetry, doing skits, or demonstrating sports,” Piletz said. “MC international students and domestic students take on a team spirit, working together with one another to put on an entertaining show that engages the audience.”
She said the series of three-to-five-minute performances also help those who speak English as a second language build confidence through their presentation skills.
“Some international students may feel their command of the English language might not be good enough to perform in public,” she said. “By urging them to sing a song in their language, they can be more comfortable with their performance.
“I want them to take pride in their country, culture, and where they came from. Some of them have a lot of obstacles to overcome, but they have a lot of talent. Many of those who expressed doubts about performing in the festival have come up to me afterward and said, ‘Can I do that again?’”
Talented students from more than a dozen countries are expected to participate in this year’s festival, featuring a Jordanian skit, a Jamaican performance, a poetry recital by Chinese school students from Jackson, and a K-Pop dance by a Chinese exchange student, Du Xin. A performance of traditional bluegrass music will represent American culture.
A stunning fashion show, an annual crowd favorite, will dazzle audiences with brilliant outfits and authentic clothing from a variety of cultures encompassing almost every continent.
“These are outfits you would see only during special occasions,” Piletz said. “The audience will be in for a pleasant surprise this year: not only are we going to have some unusual performances, but we also plan to have more interactive presentations.”
She said many members of the MC, Clinton, and Jackson communities who attend the festival gain an appreciation for the abundance of multicultural talent at MC.
“Because the program is so interesting, the audience gets excited and supports the performers,” Piletz said. “It’s an atmosphere seldom seen anywhere. People are standing and singing, and that means everything to the performers.
“It’s going to be a fun night.”
The International Festival is the Office of Global Education’s only fundraiser for international student scholarships. This critical resource helps keep the pipeline of academic talent from around the world flowing to the Christian University.
“It’s important for us to help undergraduate and graduate international students make their way to MC,” Piletz said. “We cannot all travel to their countries. This event brings their country’s culture and history to us.
“The International Festival is an educational opportunity that allows us to better understand the diverse cultures from around the world. It offers a global vision rather than a narrow, provincial vision. Misperceptions happen because of a lack of understanding of one another’s culture. Events like this entertain, enlighten, and educate so we can enjoy peace with one another.”
Following the festival, audience members will have an opportunity to interact with the performers during a reception in the Nelson Hall lobby. Refreshments will be available.
Tickets to the International Festival cost $10 each for adults, $5 each for students, and $25 each for families of any size. Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door.
For more information about supporting international student scholarships at Mississippi College, email Piletz at firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase tickets to the International Festival in advance, visit https://commerce.cashnet.com/MCOGE.