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With blazing excitement for what is to come upon reading the line printed at the back of my ticket: “Each country has a recognized flower, while they are beautiful individually, together they make a bouquet,” I certainly had my hopes up while stepping foot into the Union Ballroom, where the 2019 International Dinner night took place.

Hosted by the World Student Association on the night of Nov. 16, the 2019 dinner promised to metaphorically (and literally) present different countries as their national flowers, a theme that runs consistently throughout the night and here-and-there corners of the room.

While I didn’t exactly find myself lost in some lush greenery paradise, I was pleasantly surprised by how seamlessly the flower theme blended in content-wise and the large range of nations that get represented. A true “global garden,” indeed. 

Below are the recaps of my experience.

Soft clatterings and tender piano accompaniment by Dayeon Kim and Giuseppe Spadaro welcomed my arrival at the spacious ballroom. Iced lemonade was at your disposal if you wanted a drink to prep your appetite. 

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The night kicked off ceremoniously with the traditional flag parade. Twenty-five flags, proudly flung in the air, captured everyone’s attention. 

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Christina Marie Ruiz and Shubham Syndriyal, the night’s MCs, entered the stage and cracked up the crowd with light-hearted bickering and endearingly awkward jokes.

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WSA President Connor Borowitz, BGSU President Rodney Rogers and Executive Director of International Programs and Partnership Marcia Salazar-Valentine gave opening remarks for the dinner.

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The “Global Garden” journey began with Red Rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower, symbolizing wealth, passion, care and abundance. Members of the Nepal Students’ Association showed off their moves in a traditional dance on a song which translated to “How Beautiful.” 

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The next stop was South Korea. Hibiscus Syriacus, the country’s national flower, symbolizes eternity and abundance. Following up was Dayeon Kim and Jonghoon Won’s soulful interpretation of the traditional Korean folk song “Arirang” and the contemporary K-Pop sensation “Fake Love.”

The Romanian national flower, Dog Rose, traditionally signifies love, but for young Romanians it means style and modern age. Bianca Karnalas’ energetic footwork embodies the modern spirit perfectly despite the dance being traditional.

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The anecdote behind the Austrian national flower, Eidelweiss, whereby the flower is harvested on daring steeps and fatal climbs which men must risk to collect, crafts its symbolic meaning of deep love and devotion. Greg Smith and Gina Buzzelli carried on with a beautiful string duet by Joseph Haydn.

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The much-anticipated segment of the night — dinner! For entrees, the Mexican classic, Pork Carnitas with tortillas, which was sprinkled with lime and cilantro, with the Chinese Da Pan Ji Chicken and Noodle, would keep your stomach warm and toasty. Vegans were kept in the loop with the Napeli spicy potato salad Alu Acchar, Levantine veggie salad Tabouli and the Fattoush salad with mixed greens also from Levant.

My favorite bite of the night? The Tahitian pudding Po’e. The sweetness was not overwhelming (a quality I really appreciate in a dessert) but would leave the tip of your tongue delighted with a lingering tropical aftertaste of banana and coconut milk. 

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I had to leave the buffet lineup to snap some pictures of the raffle baskets because they all look amazing. What impressed me was that the goods inside these baskets were all cross-cultural. You name it: Japanese stationery, Chinese Four Season Character Tiles, Russian sheet masks and, believe it or not, a Ohian mug. 

The night proceeds with the flower that emerges from the mud, the Blue Water Lily — Sri Lanka’s symbol for purity, divine birth and enlightenment. Buddhima Rupasinghe charmed the guests with a heartfelt mash-up singing performance. 

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Not one but two flowers embody the Japan’s spirit: the Cherry Blossom, signifying immortality and the Chrysanthemum, which was used as the Imperial Seal of Japan. Hiroshi Nakao wowed the crowd with solid karate moves and earned a big round of applause in turn.  

The final flower of the night was the Lotus, representing India. The Lotus is a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Avisha Lad, Tarishi Verma, Naveen Kumar and Gurtej Singh wrapped up the performing segment with a Bollywood Bhaṅgṛā fusion.

If this entire night was a flower, then this is the moment where it would reach full bloom. The fashion show, in my opinion, was the best way to tie things up.

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All 18 models assembled for the grand finale.

To end the event us, Borowitz gave some concluding remarks and expressed gratitude for members of the Executive Board, who then presented themselves on stage. 

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And again, the flags were flung high in the air to officially close out the event.  

As I scrambled on my feet in a (failed) attempt to capture this moment at its best angle, I got a chance to take a closer look at these flag-bearers: their countenances, their garments, their skin color, their way of flag-waving — all so diverse and astonishingly different, but all proud and beautiful just the same. 

Maybe this is where the true spirit of the “Global Garden,” or whatever the theme would be in the coming years, lies in.

Any theme would work, after all, because representation, inclusiveness, solidarity and respect will remain.

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