The Cultural Diversity at Queen’s programme not only welcomes international students and staff members introduce their own cultures, but also encourages them to share their intercultural experience through this blog channel. Below is what GAO Ying, a Chinese student from Management School, told us her interesting experience of being invited to the Holi Festival celebration just a couple of days before the festival starts today, 8th March (also the International Women’s Day).
What did you know about this Holi Festival?
Well, actually before I was invited I knew little of it. Since I started my life at Queen’s I have made friends with a lot of international students, including Indians, many of whom are also my classmates. I have learned from them (and Google) that the colourful Holi festival is Indians’ celebration of the triumph of good over evil and the destruction of Holika, the banshee. It is also the joyous day when the Holi Festival begins with singing and dancing throughout not only India but also the world along with the diaspora. At the same time, it also represents the end of the monotonous colour of winter, followed by the spring flowers.
This year Holi falls on the 8th March, but it’s celebrated a bit earlier on the 5th March, which is a Sunday, so as to encourage more students to join.
What was your Holi experience and the joy of it?
Before I went, I was told by my best friend Parvin, who is a lovely Indian girl, that I’d better wear a white T-shirt because people would use coloured powder throwing to each other and into the air to celebrate Holi. After getting the ticket through an app, I went together with my friends to the Botanic Inn, which is a bar near Queen’s. I was quite eager to taste the new culture and would also be keen to meet some new friends at the event.
The celebration was arranged outdoors and everybody looked so excited. There was a DJ from Dublin who was invited here for music production. With energetic music, my Indian classmates introduced me to their friends then we all danced together. They taught me some Indian dancing steps and movements, some of which were actually from the daily actions of Indian labourers, such as grinding, stirring or making naan bread. We laughed, held each other’s hands and danced to the music, laughing out loud. It was so much fun with relaxing time. Of course, we all had colours on our faces and our bodies – no one could escape! I felt so happy that I should have another chance to know more about them.
What has been your overall student life experience with Queen’s so far?
Before I arrived at Queen’s, I had already heard from its media and social media like WeChat that Queen’s is a beautiful university with international students from many different cultures, which impressed me a lot.
When I came here, I enjoyed some local celebrations such as Halloween and Christmas, which was great because they gave a quite authentic feel. But the first large cultural event I was seriously engaged with was to attend as a student volunteer for the ArtEast Exhibition at the Ulster Museum, as part of the Chinese New Year Celebration programme at Queen’s. I was really proud of being able to help with promoting my own culture to visitors from other cultures. Now, through the Holi celebration I started to explore more other cultures which were distant to me originally. I really appreciate Queen’s multicultural environment, within which I have already started to harvest happiness, friendship, and a heart full of love.
I certainly have enjoyed my colourful life here and would like to encourage my friends, Chinese and international, to live our lives together in a more interactive and interesting way while studying at Queen’s.