International Nights returns to UH-Hilo on Feb. 22-23

Explore the cultures of the world without leaving Hilo when the University of Hawaii at Hilo hosts its annual “International Nights.”

International Nights is a long-standing annual tradition where UH-Hilo’s international students put on a show that highlights the culture of their respective countries, said Jim Mellon, director of international student services at university.

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This year, Mellon said there are 15 or 16 groups performing over two nights — 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 — at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center.

“We try to make the event educational and not just entertaining,” he said.

As groups are introduced, there will be a short slide show highlighting interesting and relevant information about the country or culture.

“People get to learn a little bit about geography, pop culture, food, as well as be entertained and learn something about the different cultures represented here on campus,” Mellon said.

According to Mellon, there are about 37 different countries represented at UH-Hilo, and about 7 or 8 percent of the student body are international students.

As well as platform to highlight international students, an event like International Nights “really builds and strengthens cultural pride among students on campus,” he said.

This year, the program will highlight cultures from Japan, Korea, Philippines, Samoa, India, Ireland, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Africa and South Asia.

Giving back is one reason it’s important to offer the International Nights program, Mellon said.

The Hilo community is welcoming to the school’s international students, he said, and in some ways, the program is a way “for us, for them to give back to the community and share their culture. It’s a celebration of where they came from and a kind of ‘giving back’ to the community for everything they have done for (the students).”

UH-Hilo is also known for its racial and ethnic diversity, said Mellon.

The school was last year ranked the most diverse four-year public university in the nation by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

International Nights is a way to highlight that “incredibly rich diversity on this campus, in this small little town on an island in the Pacific.”

Senior Lucy Maino, a senior from Papua New Guinea and social media coordinator for the International Student Association, shared those sentiments.

With UH-Hilo being a diverse school, she said having an event like International Nights “allows the school to showcase the diversity that’s represented on campus.”

Maino encouraged people to attend.

“You get to experience different cultures without having to leave Hilo,” she said.

For her part, Maino will dance both Friday and Saturday with two different groups and has also been involved in the planning of International Nights.

Maino will perform with an African group and dance also with a group from Fiji.

It’s also an opportunity for her to learn about the cultures.

“For me, it’s very refreshing to see people from that particular place have so much passion when they’re trying to teach other people who are willing to learn,” said Maino.

“… Their willingness to want to share their culture with other people from different parts of the world, it’s really awesome.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors 55 and older, and $5 for students and keiki 17 and younger.

They can be purchased at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center Box Office 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. No online or phone sales.

For ticket information, call 932-7490.

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Because the shows typically sell out, Mellon advised to purchase tickets in advance.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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