Whisked away to India at the International Dinner Dance

Kristina Smith

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The 28th International Dinner Dance proved to be an evening of excitement and beauty. Once students stepped into the field house, they were transported to a beautiful scene where the theme was a Taste of India. Students had the opportunity to eat Indian food, see multiple ethnic dances performed by students, and pose for photos before a marigold backdrop.

Ruth Lopez, the Assistant Vice President of the International Center & Diversity, said that the very first of these events happened 28 years ago when international students gathered in dorms for a simple potluck.

Now the event is semi-formal with visits from the UNF President and his wife and from Student Body President DuPilka. And the International Center may have found an ally in UNF’s first lady, Maria Szymanski.

Szymanski herself was once an international student, and said that hosting such an event was a really great thing to do. In a speech President Szymanski pressed the importance of diversity. “This is a phenomenal gathering…the kinds of things we want to do at this institution. Which is bring people together from different backgrounds, diverse cultures, diverse religions, diverse perspectives, and bringing people together as one.”

Such students that excel in going out of their comfort zones would include Anita Llubani and Kaitlynn Himmelreich, who won the International and Study Abroad Student of the Year award respectively. Llubani is a Master’s student from Italy, and has worked with refugees in Venice. Himmelreich, a double major in Deaf Education and International Studies, has studied abroad three times and researched Cambodian sign language.

The evening proved to be one full of applause: for these accomplished students, for the dancers, and for the progress of the international community at UNF.

In case you missed it, or in case you want to relive the magical night, check out photos in the gallery below.


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  • The theme of the 28th International Dinner Dance was A Taste of India and welcomed students from all corners of the world.

  • The first dancers of the evening, Annie Thomas and Sai Spurthi Ravi, greeted guests by placing bindi red dots on their foreheads.

  • Nina Lee danced the Pangalay Dance, an ancient "fingernail" dance.

  • Recalling the fact that Mrs. Szymanski was born in Greece, President Szymanski stated that he lives in an international house. "She's Greek Orthodox, I'm Catholic, and it works, we're good," Szymanski joked.

  • The evening's was garnished with colorful centerpieces and the aromas of dinner from the Blue Bamboo restaurant.

  • Nahum Michel, the President of International Ospreys, says that "I like that there's a lot of study abroad programs, but even then, not every student gets the chance to go and study abroad. With such events, it's like we're bringing the experience to the student body."

  • The final dance of the evening was called Bollywood Baddies: Bhangra Fusion Dance

  • Student Body President Jenna DuPilka and future SG President John Aloszka pose for a photo shoot.

  • Anita LLubani won the International Student of the Year award. "“I think UNF is a really great opportunity, it has a multicultural environment, and not only in your studies, but the professors and program are amazing. Everyone is here to help us, the international students. And this will also teach you for all your life because you’ll meet so many people and have amazing experiences.”

  • Kaitlynn Himmelreich won the Study Abroad Student of the Year award. "This event is wonderful to kind of expose students to other cultures and it’s a stepping stone. This is the beginning of something, and hopefully students will take something they experience and really seek people that are different from them.”

  • The evening ended with students dancing the night away.


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