From Feb. 3 to 7, McGill’s International Student Leadership Program’s (ISLP) annual i-Week celebrated cultural diversity and pluralism. According to the International Student Development and Communication Manager of the International Student Society (ISS) and ISLP Coordinator, Caroline Guay, the design of the project was designed to provide an opportunity for students to explore diverse forms of cultural expression on campus and to broaden their intercultural awareness and understanding.
“The ‘i’ [in i-Week] is for intercultural, international, identity, initiative,” Guay said. “It is a chance for all the groups to express their cultural identity, […] and [it] highlights the contributions of the intercultural [population on campus].”
The events took place in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Building last Wednesday, Feb. 3. On the second floor of the SSMU Building, Muslim Students’ Association presented “The World of Islam.” This featured a corner for prayer, a table for Henna tattoos and calligraphy, a majlis, or place of sitting, for people to relax and enjoy traditional tea and refreshments. The student association also showcased Islamic art, literature, tradition, and history.
One door down, the McGill Brazilian Students’ Association was preparing for its own “Brazilian Atelier,” featuring dance tutorials, live performances, and a feast of cakes and chocolates. Representatives from the General Consulate of Brazil to Montreal were present.
“There are lots of misconceptions about Brazil,” said Guilherme Franzmann, a PhD student and founding member of the Brazilian Students’ Association. “This way, you […] highlight cultural features of Brazil, and people will be more knowledgeable about Brazilian culture, music, food, and dance.”
As well as being a celebration of cultural representation on campus, i-Week served a broader educational purpose.
“There are still stereotypes and misperceptions that exist,” Guay said. “McGill is known as an academically rigorous university. We have the highest percentage of international students of any of the large research-intensive universities in Canada [….] The reason why we thought this [event] was important was so students [have a] chance to step outside of the academic realm and invite people into their more personal, socio-cultural realm.”
Stefan Kammerlander, a member of ISLP and a coordinator for i-Week, explained that the aim of the event series was to provide a platform for students to share their cultural backgrounds with the entire university.
“There are 18 [International Student Leaders (ISLs)] who were divided into different committees to help clubs with the process of organizing the event,” Kammerlander said. “They show what they want to show.”
With 30 clubs and associations represented, i-Week showcased the diversity of McGill’s student population. According to Guay, the series underscored how students with international backgrounds have shaped the community.
“There is a larger sense of understanding someone’s context more,” Guay said. “It breeds more interest, willingness to engage and appreciate when you understand where your classmates are coming from, what motivates them, [and] how the way they are is informed by their cultural background.”