Breaking Indifference with a Bridge Built by Differences
The universalist Henri Poincare once said, “It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word, it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.”
In seemingly growing world conflicts, even the most minute acts of unity create an avenue for peace, friendship, and camaraderie.
On the 13th of September 2023, a commemoration of fellowship and harmony was celebrated at the Sacred Heart Center during International Students’ Day. Learners from all over the globe who are being fostered by the nurturing educational institution of Saint Mary’s University gathered with their host families, and the institution’s stakeholders to acknowledge and share each other’s parallels and differences.
Thirteen international students from different parts of the world, namely Asia, Europe, and Africa, were the guests of honor during the occasion as they met each other with gleeful excitement. They were introduced by Mr. Olivar Reimos Barroga, SHANS Promotions Linkage Coordinator.
Present were students from various countries in Asia, namely, Ooranuch Jantrapreechakul, Natthinan Phummarin, and Peerapat Yuktichart from Thailand. Muhammad Hadiatman and Idris from Indonesia were also there, along with Taichi Hayashi from Japan, and Cho Eun from Korea.
Students from Europe and Africa also attended the occasion. There were Lukas Dupont, Jonas Mennes, Lucas David from Belgium, Carolina Guasco from Italy, Adriana Ixcot Ramirez from Germany, and Dickson Owusu from Africa.
The exchange students expressed their appreciation for the institution through words and talent. At the same time, the University extended its welcoming arms through the persona of Saint Mary’s president, Dr. John Octavious Palina, with his hearty welcome speech.
The learners gracefully exhibited creative performances with dances, sharing fragments of their cultures from their home countries with the audience. Furthermore, they shared pieces of their struggles, their overcome challenges, inspirations, and sentiments of their personal journeys as exchange students, leaving the crowd with a heartfelt perception of the world of our visiting friends.
Lukas Dopont from Belgium, a current medical intern at Region 2 Trauma and Medical Center, mentioned in his interview with The MARIAN that it was his first time meeting the other exchange students. In his statement, he said, “I don’t know [that] there are other international students yet. It’s very fun we can see them, I feel very at home right now. Everybody is really kind here. I don’t feel like there are rude Filipinos, everybody is very friendly, so that’s really nice,”.
Dr. Palina elatedly announced his appreciation for the increasing number of students from different nations partaking in the university’s ambition for mission, academic excellence, and friendship among the students. He reminisced about the challenges of the University during the distance learning milieu at the height of the pandemic, where Saint Mary’s was only able to nurture the education of four exchange students. The sound of gaiety filled the room as he proffered the University’s embrace to the thirteen international learners present on the occasion.
Dr. Clara Gonzales, the head of the Promotions, External Relations, and Internalization Office, also iterated on Saint Mary’s University’s ideals on the importance of cross-cultural understanding and cooperation through an elaboration of the University’s vision for its strategic internalization direction.
The tune of laughter and friendly competition vividly echoed in the venue during a series of games and socialization activities prepared for the international students present at the event. These were hosted by the Linkage Coordinators of SEAIT and STEH, Ms. Rocel Batara and Ms. Rheena Niña Salinas.
The exchange students were given the opportunity to build a relationship with each other and break the boundaries of their differences in customs and culture. The Sacred Heart Center bore witness to the forging of happy friendships and the living proof of Saint Mary’s University’s aim to provide a haven where education knows no boundaries and every student can thrive within the SMU community, regardless of background.
After the international students provided a glimpse of their culture to the audience of the celebration, student performers from the university organizations – Saint Mary’s University Dance Troupe and BIBAK, also showcased the Filipino cultural spirit with dance performances from Filipino Traditional Culture.
The SMU Dance Troupe gracefully encapsulated the Filipino spirit, while the BIBAK performers proudly introduced the traditional Ifugao dance and rhythm to their foreign audience.
To end the occasion, Vice President for Mission and Identity Rev. Fr. Philip A. Yu, Jr., CICM, solemnly uttered a closing prayer with gratitude to the Heavenly Father for a successful and joyous commemoration of friendship, unity, and diversity.
In the grand scheme of things, attachments forged from differences are what make a unified peaceful world possible. Forming a tapestry of fondness despite cultural boundaries creates a bridge of understanding and empathy that the world needs to surpass seeds of conflict sowed with the very blocks that may break them. As International Students’ Day came to an end, a daily celebration of friendship and a unified community was built.