by Dhiya Sony, Batch of 2021. The fifth House of Representatives convened on 11th March, with
The Edict speaks to Absera G Mekonnen, chairperson of the Ashoka University International Students Association. He talks about the upcoming UBUNTU festival and the experiences of being an international student on campus.
Can you state some of your responsibilities as head of the AUISA?
The official name of the position that I am currently occupying is Chairperson of Ashoka University International Students Association. Primarily my job is guarded by the constitution of AUISA. As the chairperson, I am responsible for the functioning of the association as a whole but the responsibility is shared among 4 other executive members namely vice chair, events, treasurer and secretary. We only make decisions after deliberations every week. In addition, the primary existence of the association is creating a platform where international students would feel home in this space. We hope to achieve that, through our parties, discussions and trips. Besides that, we make ourselves accessible in case any international student needs help on campus in any capacity.
What are some of the main challenges faced by international students, both when they first join as well as challenges that you guys are still facing.
This is a very broad question. I would argue that each student had their own cultural shocks in a million different ways. Starting from the very basics of language to students facing challenges in having no context of the local history in class discussions. So, I’d say it’s within those borders keeping in mind its subjective nature.
We have seen extensive marketing for UBUNTU in the past couple of weeks. Can you tell us a little more about the festival, and the AUISA’s role in its organization.
Ubuntu in Nguni Bantu translates to ‘Humanity’. It is a term reflective of the philosophy ‘I am because you are’. Ubuntu is a culturally diverse day of food, dance, interactive talks, music, and theatre. The aim of this festival is to strengthen socio-cultural bonds among students of various ethnicities and nationalities while seeking to establish a prosperous environment for the exchange of opinions and cultures in line with representing the oneness of students across various universities in India from different nations and continents. Taking the ethos of Ashoka University forward, the Ashoka University International Students Association (AUISA) and the Inter-Collegiate Department of the Cultural Ministry (2018–2019) will work together for the Indo-International Cultural Exchange Festival. The Chairperson of the AUISA will be Chairperson of this fest and the Vice-Chairperson of the AUISA will be its Vice-Chairperson. Inter-Collegiate Member(s) of the Cultural Ministry (at the time of event planning) will be the Secretary/Secretaries of the fest.
This being the second iteration of the festival, what changes can we expect from last year?
This time it’s big! The core team by itself is three times bigger than last year. We are expecting twice as much footfall than last year and we wish to reach out to more nationalities this time as compared to last year. In addition, we also expect the content of the day to be more interesting to both the hosts and the invited guests.
How has the response to the events you have hosted so far from the students been?
It’s epic! People have reached out to us inquiring about this year’s festival. The word has spread and hopefully, they’ll come for the event. On the contrary, we had fewer people from Ashoka the previous time showing up but we hope Ashokans will be a little more attentive this year. That’s why we’ve been active in promoting and marketing on campus regularly.
Does the cultural diversity of India make it easier or harder to organize such an event? How hard is it to bring people together and cater to all of them?
Interestingly no! This is due to the fact that most of our audience were international citizens and through one way or the other people amongst us had contacts. That way it wasn’t hard to reach out to them. However, in saying this, I don’t want to undermine the effort that we have to put interns of logistics; specifically, transport since our campus is located a little far from the metro city.
In your opinion, does Ubuntu exist in Ashoka? If yes how? If not why and how can we integrate Ubuntu in the Ashokan society?
It is everywhere! The essence of Ubuntu is that one’s existence crucial to others’ experiences. Preaching unity through love and a church bell, that I am the way I am because you are. Ashoka is a very diverse place. According to the information I have 15+ countries (including NRIs) are represented on our campus. Not only crossing borders but even from India itself, our campus encompasses different people from different parts of India living together and building this institution together.
Ubuntu will take place on April 5 fat Ashoka Unversity.