If you had walked into Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)’s Geoffrey Manton building on Tuesday afternoon, you might have been a little surprised. Usually when entering the atrium during Freshers’ Week you would expect to be met by a horde of hung-over faces with a bottle of squash in hand, ready to fight through a lecture. However, Tuesday was different. Instead, you may have been met by Arabic dancing, a Samba band or even a dancing Chinese lion.
The Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences (HLSS) staged a variety of performances and was full of expressive and vibrant stands offering opportunities for students as MMU fused a diversity of languages and cultures together in a lively international event.
John Singh-Green, one of the organizers of the event, said the event was in place to serve as a warm welcome to Manchester and to introduce students to the international culture and languages opportunities available at MMU.
“We are delighted to be involved in promoting all things international,” he enthused, “Knowing a language can make a student a lot more employable, and the support students can get make learning a foreign language and studying abroad accessible.”
The banging of drums filled and echoed around the building. The School of Samba had begun their performance. The atrium buzzed with energy and excitement as the new students soaked up the atmosphere.
Encircling the Geoffrey Manton atrium were a variety of stands, each offering different established support groups to help students learn a foreign language or get involved with international exchange or volunteering and become further enriched in culture.
If you wanted to learn a language, the staff behind the Uniwide stand were happy to help. Uniwide allows MMU students to study a language as part of the degree they are already studying, and if this is not possible, it lets students sign up to learn their chosen foreign language for £195.
If becoming more cultured interested you more – then the SKIP and Thirdyearabroad.com stands were worth a visit. SKIP (Supporting Kids In Peru) is an NGO program which allows students to volunteer teaching English in Peru, a fulfilling experience which rewards you with priceless life skills.
Thirdyearabroad.com is a website devoted to students studying abroad, through Erasmus or other worldwide exchange programmes. The website is the UK’s largest network of students who work or study abroad and allows the students who are already abroad to swap tips and stories, as well as allowing prospective travellers to read reviews on places they may want to stay.
Maz, a new MMU student, was eagerly waiting in the line for the Smoothie Maker, a stand where students could make up their own smoothie (and even mix it together themselves through the power of riding a bicycle!?) admitted she had walked into the event by accident but once she was in the building she hadn’t left.
“I’m having so much fun,” she said, “I didn’t even know it was possible but I’m now thinking of taking a language as part of my degree.”
The Punjabi Routes Academy had by now begun their performance. Members of audience were asked to get involved and have a bang on the drums themselves. This inclusive and immersive entertainment added a certain charm to the event, and encouraged students to stay in the atrium and explore all the viable avenues.
Principal lecturer for Internationalisation and organizer Deirdre Hynes, saw the event as a perfect chance to showcase the number of different language and cultural opportunities available for students, whilst also bringing everyone together.
“The event has a dual focus,” she explained, “It’s boosting awareness of language and cultural programmes available to students, but it’s also bringing [domestic] and international students under one roof and hopefully sowing the seeds for some good networks and friendships.”
The Arabic dancing had begun; everyone joined in a circle and had a go at the art. With laughter aplenty, it appeared Deidre’s aim to bring new students together was definitely working.
From the Manchester Film Archive stand to the Routes into Languages stand, name after name and email address after email address were quickly building up on the sign-up sheets, the queue to get henna tattoos was only getting bigger, and the make–your-own tea tent was gaining in popularity.
The event ended with a Chinese Lion Dance. Everyone circled around the dancers, clapping in time to the beat. I saw John enjoying the experience. Had the event been a success?
“Lots of people have signed up, awareness has been increased, and everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves! So yes, I would say it has been a resounding one.”
I clapped in time to the beat. Based on what I experienced, I had to agree with him.