Currently viewing the tag: "Culture Night"

I’m always amazed and impressed at how Fletcher students organize their lives.  They all have a full slate of academic commitments, but they also want to engage with the community in many ways.  For student blogger Adnan, the School’s traditional “culture nights” have been a highlight throughout the year.

On an April weekend evening, for the first time in my life, I stuck my face in a pie.  It felt funny, but tasted really good.  Sadly, there was no time to savor the chunky apple filling because I only had a minute to eat as much of it as I could — without using my hands — as my friends watched and cheered.  While struggling to finish, I learned an important lesson: having dinner before entering a pie-eating contest is not the best idea.  (In my defense, the barbequed chicken, mac and cheese, and corn bread served earlier were hard to resist.)  I lost, but the experience is one I will likely remember fondly for many years to come.  A few minutes later, I was all cleaned up and back on stage for my first-ever swing dance performance, which was reminiscent of scenes from the 1978 Hollywood blockbuster, Grease.  April is a particularly busy time of the year, so I hardly had time to practice, but a few lessons from my very talented classmates made me performance-worthy.  Or so I hope.  And thankfully, the motion didn’t trigger my digestive tract into reverse action.

Like the four culture nights before it, Americana Night, the last one for the year, was a huge success.  Culture nights have been one of the highlights of my Fletcher experience, and I’m proud to have performed in all but one of them.  Performances feature students in dances, songs, fashion shows, poetry recitals, trivia quizzes, and skits that give their classmates a glimpse of the region being honored.  And the variety of ethnic food that’s served gets us lined up in a queue that often wraps the entire venue.  The year kicked off with Asia Night in October.  Given the region’s rich diversity, the evening’s entertainment ranged from Indonesian pop songs to classical Nepalese dance.  I participated in a Bollywood dance segment, and it was heartening to see the enthusiasm with which my international friends learned each step.  Their bhangra moves would easily put many of my friends back home in Pakistan to shame.

Adnan, salsa

Fiesta Latina salsa dancers

Fiesta Latina in November was my personal favorite because I got to learn salsa.  It’s something I had always wanted to do, so I was particularly diligent about practice, and ended up performing better than I had expected.

Mediterranean & European Night in February saw performances ranging from flamenco and belly dance to dabke, hora, and even a chest-hair competition.  I sang a French pop song with a group of Francophone friends.  People who asked me afterward were surprised to learn that I don’t speak French.  At Africana Night in March, it was good to only be a part of the audience for a change and watch my classmates perform dances like batuku and kuduro while enjoying goat curry and injera.

Not only do culture nights celebrate the diversity of our community in a manner that is inclusive and fun, they’re a Fletcher tradition that reflects the school’s spirit like few other events do.  On the one hand students take ownership of the cultural traditions they are most familiar with to ensure things are done right; on the other, they sign up to learn whatever they find exciting.  Performance leaders generously lend their time to teach and practice with their peers until they’re ready to be on stage.  We also lend and borrow ethnic clothing items to help each other build outfits and costumes for performances.  In many ways, culture nights embody what Fletcher represents: learning through engaging and sharing, and having a good time doing it.

Adnan, Med Night

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The last post written by our first-year student bloggers comes from Adnan, who is in the MALD program.  As he’ll explain, Adnan and I met at the earliest stages of his graduate school search and it has been a pleasure to keep up with him for more than a year.  He was also the very first new student I ran into on the first day of Orientation in August.  We were both walking up to Fletcher, and it seemed like an especially fitting start to the new academic year.  Naturally, I reached out to him when I was thinking about whom to ask to do some blogging over the next two years.  Here’s his story.

Adnan study group

Adnan, on right, meeting with his study group.

Three months in, I’m happy to report that Fletcher is everything I’d imagined it to be, and so much more.  My journey began last fall while I was visiting my alma mater, the University of Toronto, and happened to attend the APSIA fair they were hosting.  At the time, I was working in Lahore as an associate editor at Newsweek Pakistan, where I had started off as a staff reporter in 2011.  I had also been admitted to an international affairs program at another graduate school that spring, but deferred the offer because I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right choice for me.  Meeting representatives of various schools at the fair was a great way to get a sense of what else was out there, but the Fletcher booth is where I ended up spending most of my time.  I had an engaging conversation with Jessica about whether I’d be a good fit, and it motivated me to make a trip down to Medford.

Visiting campus convinced me that Fletcher was where I wanted to be.  I signed up for an interview and a coffee-chat with a student, met with a faculty member, attended a talk, and stayed overnight with a student who heard about me through the mighty Social List.  Each activity offered a different perspective on life at Fletcher, and I was able to get answers to all my questions.  The diversity of its curriculum, and the freedom to tailor a program to suit my interests were an important part of Fletcher’s appeal, as was its prestigious reputation.  What drew me most to the school, however, were Fletcher’s extraordinarily amicable people.  Everybody I interacted with seemed genuinely interested in helping, and as I can attest now, it wasn’t just about making a visitor feel welcome, but is very much a part of Fletcher’s culture.  I’m lucky to have gotten in, and glad I chose well.

With my background in journalism, I knew that International Information and Communication would be one of my concentrations.  This semester, I’m taking International Communication, the required course for that field.  Of the many topics covered in class, it’s been fascinating to study the changing context in which global media operates.  I am also taking both parts of Social Networks in Organizations, which work toward the field too.  Additionally, I am fulfilling my breadth requirements for one ILO course with International Legal Order, and for a required DHP class with Global Political Economy.  The second field of study I’m interested in is Strategic Management and International Consultancy.  Though this is technically a field for the MIB degree, the flexibility of Fletcher’s programs allows MALD students like me to petition to complete it.  To get my foot in the door, I joined the student-run service, 180 Degrees Consulting, and am leading a project to help a nongovernmental organization develop a communication strategy.

Adnan on dock

Adnan, fifth of a line of students at Professor Hess’s annual fall picnic.

While classes are rigorous and demanding, they are one among many sources of learning at Fletcher.  Coursework is complemented by daily events that range from conferences and panel discussions, to workshops and film-screenings, often leaving us spoiled for choice.  Another great resource is Fletcher’s diverse student body, just casually hanging out with whom can be educational.  Through clubs, students arrange organized activities and events too, my favorite of which so far have been the culture nights.  I danced in a Bollywood performance at Asia Night, learned Salsa for Fiesta Latina, and am already excited about Africana, Americana, and Mediterranean nights next semester.  With everything that goes on, and limited time at hand, coping with the fear of missing out can be a Fletcher student’s biggest challenge.  As I learn to prioritize to ensure I make the most of my time here, I look forward to sharing my Fletcher experience with you.

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As a Fletcher staffer, there are the events I attend, the events I wish I could attend but don’t have time for, and the events that, let’s be honest, are really designed for students, not staff.  That would include the Culture Nights, where students share music, dance, and other performances from their native Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Mediterranean Region, and just have a great time.  The newest of the Culture Nights is Americana Night, which I have asked Admissions pal and soon-to-graduate MALD student, Anna, to describe.

Fact: There are 50 states in America!
Fact: The colors of the American Flag are red, white, and blue!
Fact: Beyoncé is our greatest national treasure!

These are just three of the “facts” that students who attended this month’s Americana Night learned.  I had the honor of being the co-host in both my years at Fletcher, and it is quite a night.  There might not be a lot of learning going on, but there is a whole lot of fun.

Americana Night started as a Fletcher Follies sketch a few years ago — it was a tongue-in-cheek parody of all of the other (amazing) Culture Nights at Fletcher.  But then some students decided they wanted to make it a real thing, so here we are!

This year, we had a truly incredible display of talent.  Many different genres of American music were represented, from a bluegrass quartet singing Johnny Cash to “Fletallica,” a metal band covering some of the greatest headbangers in the canon.  The fashion show theme was “America Through The Decades,” and Fletcherites strutted their stuff to hits ranging from Chubby Checker to Mariah Carey.  One student performed some of Robin Williams’s greatest stand-up routines as a tribute to the comedian, while another recited original poetry that he had penned for the occasion.  And, of course, there was Beyoncé.  Well, a Beyoncé dance, that is — we reached out to the legend herself, but she couldn’t squeeze Americana Night into her busy schedule.  Next year, Bey!

Despite the night’s star-spangled theme, students from all over the world performed in the acts.  Jamaica, Mexico, Venezuela, South Korea, Ghana… as with everything at Fletcher, this was a truly international gathering.  We even had a nice tribute to the frozen north as our brothers and sisters from Canada sang their national anthem at the top of the show.

Hosting and organizing Americana Night was definitely the highlight of my Fletcher career.  The Culture Nights as a whole represent the very best of Fletcher.  We’re a group of internationally minded people who love nothing more than to get together with some good food, good spirits, and good friends, to better know the world.

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After two lovely years of working with Roxanne, an amazing writer, I’m sad that her student blogger role is coming to an end.  Though I’m hopeful to include her thoughts in the Admissions Blog in the future, the focus will shift to her post-Fletcher activities.  Today, Roxanne shares her reflections on two years at Fletcher.

Roxanne graduationI remember reading the Admissions Blog from across the world and wanting to experience the buzz in Fletcher’s Hall of Flags that Jessica so frequently described.  It, therefore, feels surreal to sit at my desk at home — the same desk where I have typed so many words and formatted so many footnotes — to write my closing reflections on this chapter of my Fletcher education.  On May 18, I marched in Fletcher’s Commencement ceremonies and was once again moved by the love and care that run so deep in this community.  When I look back on two years at Fletcher, I will, indeed, remember compassion, kindness, and care — for the world and for each other. As I had promised Jessica, I would also like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the other major themes and lessons that have punctuated my time at Fletcher.

  • Prepare to be humbled by your peers.  Professors, university leaders, staff, and guest speakers are all incredibly inspiring and will give you much to reflect on, but prepare for an immense amount of your learning to come from your peers.  Some of my fondest memories of learning and community alike at Fletcher have taken place in the company of what a friend has affectionately dubbed “the Ladies who Law.”  Choose your study groups well — those are the individuals who will help you make sense of econometrics or piece together the complex concepts of international law, and who will be entrusted with much of your collective learning.  Know that there will be times when you understand concepts less than your peers, and times when you will have to shoulder more of the work or be better prepared.  Treat your group work seriously and your peers with respect, and you will find yourself referencing their thoughts and insights just as much as you do those of your professors.
  • Advocate for what you care about.  I have always been drawn to the intersection of identities: conflict and humanitarian practitioner, scholar and activist.  Inhabiting the intersections can be challenging, and clarifying my role in conflict-affected settings requires demarcating how these different identities interact.  However, as a student, I was not prepared to cast any of the identities aside.  I came to Fletcher to study and learn, but when I noticed that there was an opportunity to think more creatively as an institution about inclusive security, diversity, and analysis of gender and power, I leaped at the chance to facilitate these conversations.  Looking back, I cherish the formation, advocacy, and momentum of the Gender Initiative at Fletcher and cannot imagine my time here without channeling my energy towards it.  Advocating for what I (and many others!) cared about was not required for my courses.  It was not an extra-curricular activity, per se.  At the same time, it felt essential to me and it aligned my personal values, professional experience, and sense of what I wanted to give to this community.  When you see opportunities to reflect on Fletcher as an institution, and to do so collaboratively and constructively, don’t shy away from them.
  • Say yes. In an earlier post with advice to incoming students, I had suggested that you think about what you hope to accomplish at Fletcher prior to arriving.  In this post, I suggest carving out some room for surprise.  Try a class that is outside your field of expertise — just because it’s interesting, or because you want to learn from that particular professor, or just because you’re curious.  Attend a talk that you don’t think is for you.  Sign up to learn to dance salsa for the Culture Nights — even if you’ve never danced before.  Some of the best learning takes place when you say yes and open yourself up to vulnerability, surprise, and the opportunity to be a novice again.

I am not quite ready to leave Fletcher — but perhaps that is a testament to the community itself: Fletcher inspires in all of us a constant desire to learn, challenge ourselves, and strive — and, at the same time, it sparks such an investment in our shared bonds that we are reluctant to leave the place and its people behind.  Graduation has, however, catapulted us into the world and I am looking forward to watching these relationships evolve and reconfigure and to being part of our continued, shared learning.  I promise to come visit on the Admissions Blog as an alumna from time to time — until then, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful summer!

The "Ladies who Law," ready to graduate.

Some of the “Ladies who Law,” ready to graduate.

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