For those looking to experience a different way of life without the hassle and expense of international travel, Indian Culture Night brought another piece of the world to campus, making the gap between the East and West seem a little smaller.
Dr. Nancy Bonner, assistant professor in the College of Business serves as the faculty adviser for the Indian Student Association, which hosted the event Friday evening.
“It is for the students to share and teach about their culture,” she said, “just to celebrate.”
Bonner said that even graduates who no longer live in Belton make their way back to the area to enjoy the festivities of the event because of what they get out of it.
“They come from far to be able to do this,” she said. “They feel like they’re at home.”
December graduate Narendar Vemula was one such guest.
“I came from Houston to meet with all my friends,” he said. “There was lots of food and culture. It was really nice.”
Walking into Shelton Theater, guests were immediately invited by the sounds, smells and sights of the country.
Tables lined the walls with Indian food, filling the room with the scents of saffron and curry as Indians and Americans alike waited in line to fill their plates with the abundance of traditional dishes.
Junior Christian studies major Aaron Massey attended the event and enjoyed sampling the cuisine with all of the different spices, but his favorite part of the evening was the entertainment.
Performers in brightly colored garb sang, danced and played instruments on stage. From classical Indian tunes to more modern Bollywood numbers, the night offered something for everyone to enjoy.
“You could tell they were having a lot of fun,” Massey said. “They were proud to see their culture represented.”
Throughout his time at the university, Massey has developed a love for international students and enjoyed getting to see a piece of where they come from.
“They see the world very differently than we do, and so it’s nice getting to experience their culture and their roots and what forms their identity,” he said.
Massey thinks it is important for students to attend events like Indian Culture Night because it offers a unique opportunity to be exposed to ways of life different from what is seen in America.
“Literally, the world is brought to us, instead of us having to go out into the world,” he said. “There’s exposure to different cultures, to different world views, to the different people, to the different way of seeing life and doing life.”
Aside from an evening of fun, Bonner said the purpose of the event is also for the Indian students to show their appreciation to the UMHB community.
“They constantly tell me how wonderful the American students are here and how welcoming,” she said.
Alumna Sara Yasmeen addressed guests to thank everyone at the university for their support of the Indian students, even if it was just through a word of kindness.
She said, “It might be a small thing, but it was helpful to us.”
One person she thanked specifically was Bonner.
“She always treated us like we were family,” Yasmeen said.
Bonner originally got to know the school’s Indian population through her involvement with the master’s program and has enjoyed them over the years. She believes that events like Indian Culture Night are a part of the university’s mission of UMHB.
“We believe in a global education. I think it helps in that, and to find that although there are some differences in Indian customs and so forth, we’re all people in the world.”
She also said it allows students to see commonalities between themselves and those from other countries.
“You see the dances and the singing and the music, and Indian students aren’t so different from American students, right? We have our dances and music and entertaining, too. In that regard, it helps us to understand each other better,” she said.
While the event had a great turnout, Bonner wants to encourage more to attend cultural events on campus.
“I think that different cultures sharing have a lot to learn from each other,” she said. “The American students can learn from the Indian and Chinese and vice versa.”