Western celebrates Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, international diversity

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Every year when the moon is at its brightest in the fall sky, Chinese people across the world celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Last Friday, Missouri Western joined them in their festivities.

This festival, which is traditionally celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, is considered the Chinese version of Thanksgiving.  Traditional Chinese families celebrate the holiday with prayer, story-telling and calligraphy.

Friday’s celebration, hosted by International Student Services and the Department of English and Modern Languages, featured some of Western’s Chinese language students and Chinese exchange students.

The festival had students reading Chinese poetry, performing dance moves, singing songs and playing games.  One presentation featured student Fred Weems performing music on a gu zheng – a traditional Chinese string instrument.

Weems spent a year studying in China and was deeply impacted by the experience.

“I love the Chinese people because they love what I love: music and art,” Weems said.

The festival was introduced by professor Zhou Zhenglyu, an exchange professor from China.

Zhenglyu taught English at Xidian University for 10 years before coming to the United States.  This semester, Zhenglyu is teaching three Chinese classes at Western: Chinese 100, Chinese 101 and a Chinese culture class.

“I really enjoy those classes, especially the culture course,” Zhenglyu said.  “I have to thank all of the people who helped me here, all those who get involved and all those who gave presentations.”

Zhenglyu called the festival a success and many in the room full of students, parents and community members agreed with him.

“It was really interesting, they did a lot of things you usually don’t see,” sophomore Jessika Eidson said.

“It’s always good to open your mind to new cultures,” Lydia Rauch said.

Cultural events take place almost every month at Western and because of the rising number of international students on campus, the number of events is certain to incline.

Western currently has 127 international students from 35 different countries.  This number is up from 90 students from 25 countries over the Spring semester. However, International Student Services Director Amy Kotwani believes this number will continue to grow.

“If you look at the statistics from the last five or six years, every semester our numbers continue to grow,” said Kotwani.

As of fall 2014, the majority of Western’s international students come from Brazil, Saudi Arabia and China, but the numbers change every semester.

Western administrators are glad to accept students from abroad, and are planning to engage and recruit many more students from around the world.

According to Director of Admissions Tyson Schank, Western is planning to hire a “director of international recruitment and global engagement.”

“We’ve never had this position before and, historically, the recruitment of international students has been housed out of our admissions office,” Schank said.

The person hired to this new position will be sent on trips to various countries and embassies for the purpose of building international relationships and recruiting international students to Western.

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