For many University of Indianapolis students, Jan. 31 was just another Friday. For students from The People’s Republic of China, however, it was the start of the new year and the Spring Festival, one of the biggest holidays in their homeland.
Students from Ningbo Institute of Technology found ways to celebrate together and with the campus community to make as much of the holiday as possible.
Junior finance major Zhiyuan Shen got together with a dozen friends, all fellow Chinese students, for a pitch-in dinner on Jan. 31 in a campus apartment. He said that each one prepared his or her best dish for the get-together.
“We will make it like traditional to feel like we are at home, because we are a little homesick,” he said.
In China, families gather to have a large meal on the New Year’s Eve, and the holiday continues for days after the new year begins. Chinese years are based on the lunar calendar and named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. This year is the year of the horse.
“When our relatives that are in China were celebrating the festival, we were here. We were still studying,” Shen said. “In China, they had a holiday during that period of time.”
Shen said that students still saw their families’ celebrations through pictures on Chinese social media sites. He also said that many were able to webchat with their parents, but they still missed them.
One of the things that senior international business major Jiaqi Zhu said he misses is getting money from his parents in a red envelope, because the color signifies luck.
“Usually each of us will get a lot of money, but since we are here, we have no chance of getting red envelopes,” he said. “And … usually on that day, all of the family members will get together and share the food with each other, and we will watch TV into the middle of [the] night.”
The rest of campus was invited to join in the festivities on Feb. 4 when the Chinese Student Union hosted a celebration in the Schwitzer Student Center cafeteria. For the celebration, numerous students performed songs, traditional dances, shadow puppetry, a magic show, a fashion show and even gave a calligraphy demonstration.
Near the end of the celebration, Associate Vice President for International Partnerships Phylis Lan Lin went up on stage and handed out red envelopes with money from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China to any student who would come forward and say something in Chinese. The celebration concluded with a video of greetings from the students’ friends at NIT.
Zhu, president of the Chinese Student Union, said that he thought the performances went well.
“They have been practicing again and again, so I want to give them millions of thanks for that,” he said. “They are very good students and very good performers.”
Zhu said that the group began planning the event last year, and over winter break they decided on a lineup for the performances. He said the event would not have happened without the help of his friends, especially the CSU vice presidents.
Polk Food Service also has to plan ahead for events like the celebration. PFS Operations Manager Manu Kang said that doing special events helps break up the monotony in students’ lives, as well as the lives of the cafeteria staff.
“It’s always very fun for us to get involved with the students,” she said. “… It’s a matter of planning, but there can be challenges in anything we do.”
Kang also said that she and Chef Dan Phillips have to make sure that all of the details are right, such as the menu, the recipes, the number of staff and even the table linens, but they are prepared in case something goes awry.
“We try to have a plan A, B and C, just in case anything goes wrong,” she said.
However, the details are not as important to Zhu as the ability to celebrate with friends. He said that Chinese students are homesick around this time of year because they cannot see their families.
“As the Chinese Student Union, we have been prepared to give the NIT students here a feeling that they’re not alone, like we are their families here,” he said. “So we have prepared this traditional celebration.”