Kaleidoscope shares cultures from nations beyond

Tracy Cen/The Miscellany News.

The Office of International Students (OIS) in collaboration with the Vassar International Students (VISA) returned on Nov. 16 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with their most extravagant event of the year: Kaleidoscope. Conceived in 2006 by OIS and VISA, Kaleidoscope is an annual celebration of  the various cultures that make up the Vassar international students’ community. Director of International Services Andrew Meade shared his thoughts on Kaleidoscope: “One of the things that makes Kaleidoscope special is that it is a multi-layered event…It is a celebration of culture and diversity that expresses itself through all the senses.” This year, the event took place in the Villard Room. With the purchase of a  $5 ticket, guests were given access to a buffet of delicious food, a talent show, a flag ceremony and a photo contest.

 

With Kaleidoscope being such a grand production, the OIS and VISA teams had a large task on their hands. Tracy Cen ’25 [Disclaimer: Cen is the Social Media Editor for The Miscellany News] is an OIS Intern and one of the many people who worked behind the scenes to ensure that it ran smoothly. Most of her responsibilities involved reaching out to performers, vendors and students for the event. Although the event preparation was time consuming, she believed that the work was for a good cause: “Kaleidoscope provides a space for students to experience and learn about different cultures and also bring in their own culture to the intercultural space,” she described. President of VISA Alisha Gupta ’23 shared a similar sentiment. “[Planning Kaleidoscope] is always difficult because that tends to be a very heavy part of the semester in terms of workload,” she explained. “As president I make sure to check in weekly with the team…[and] I was so happy to see how successful it all turned out to be.” And a success it was! Thanks to the Social Consciousness fund grant from the Vassar Student Association (VSA) which helped fund the event, Kaleidoscope managed to draw close to 400 attendees.

 

The night began with students rushing to get a taste of the buffet in the CCMPR, which featured food from 11 local restaurants. There were also dishes made by students and organizations. Vassar Alliance for Ukraine provided “varenyky,” a national dish of dumplings with cherry filling boiled in saltwater. A long line stretched out the door and wrapped around the Villard Room.

Tracy Cen/The Miscellany News.

The first event of the night was the flag ceremony, where international students introduced themselves and their countries to the audience. They waved their flags with pride in front of the large crowd. Some students even donned traditional clothing from their home countries. Ella Nguyen ’23 commented, “It’s great to see how people showcase their identities [and see] the pride that every performer had.”

 

The second act of the night was the talent show. There were 13 incredible routines listed on the roster. Acts represented a mix of talents: singing, dancing, playing instruments and a combination of all three. Ayman Elsiddig ’26 thought this was the best part of the night. “It was nice to experience the cultures of different people,” he said. Meade also had a few special moments of his own. “I have always found the Flag Ceremony to be a simple yet beautiful and profoundly moving event,” he revealed. “Feeling the energy in the Villard Room and glancing up periodically to see what photos are showing all add to the delicious flavor of the event.”

 

Kaleidoscope offered a gateway for some performers to share their passions in music. Emma Zhuang ’24 and Zhixian Xu ’23, both international students from China, performed the dramatic piece “Der Erlkönig” by Schubert, based on a mythological poem by Göethe, as a piano duet. “As classically trained musicians, most of our performances are inside the Music Department, but Kaleidoscope is a wonderful opportunity for us to share our passion with a larger audience and a different community,” Zhuang explained. “Now that we did perform the piece, it feels like a dream come true and [fulfilled] a promise we have kept for each other.”

Image courtesy of Karolina Naidon ’26.

For other performers, Kaleidoscope allowed them to raise awareness about a topic that was close to their hearts. Karolina Naidon ’26 was able to make a statement through Kaleidoscope. In collaboration with Vassar Alliance for Ukraine and musical band “Listopad,” she sang renditions of both modern and folk songs from Ukraine. “For us, the main goal was to participate and share Ukrainian culture… [and] to highlight the current events in Ukraine,” she stated. As an international student from Ukraine herself, she wanted to form an organization that educated American students about the current invasion of Ukraine and helped Ukrainians in need of humanitarian aid. Despite their difficulties scheduling rehearsals, Naidon and her group persevered and brought an unforgettable performance to Kaleidoscope. “As for the performance, despite the shortage of time we felt satisfied,” she explained. “I was glad to share with everyone a little part of rich Ukrainian culture, and I thank everyone who supported us during our performance.”

 

A performance by Vassar’s all-inclusive, non-audition dance organization Korean Dance Group (KoDC) concluded the evening. The popularity of K-pop has steadily increased in the US over the years, per Billboard, and with such a surge in prevalence, it comes as no surprise that KoDC was one of the most heavily anticipated performances of the evening. President of KoDC Avani Desai ’23 shared, “It’s a great opportunity to showcase Korean music and dance, and it’s also a chance for us to show off some of our hard work before our Fall Showcase.“ The audience erupted with cheers numerous times throughout the performance. Crystal Wang ’25 was one of the many dancers participating in this multipart showing. “[The] audience has always been on their A-game when it comes to showing us their support,” she said. “[It] is always really energizing whenever we’re dancing.” The audience reception to KoDC’s performances is what Desai hoped for. “All of our performers put in so much hard work and effort at each rehearsal to create the best performance we can give,” she added. “We hope to continue performing at Kaleidoscope for years to come!”

 

All and all, Kaleidoscope managed to showcase the many cultures at Vassar in an engaging three-hour event. It also emboldened students like Elsiddig to become more involved with the international community at Vassar. Elsiddig was inspired by his friends in the flag ceremony this year, remarking “I might represent my country, Sudan [next year].” The event also brought students closer together in ways they wouldn’t have ever dreamed of. Zhuang explained, “In fact, [Zhixian and I]…performed in Kaleidoscope before we met each other. Ever since we got to know each other, we have been playing together.” The OIS has continued to be a resource for international students seeking a second home. “It is a huge joy and privilege to be able to work with the amazing students from OIS and VISA to create such an elaborate and beautiful celebration,” Meade concluded.

 

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