Inside USD

USD’s ISO Show Delivers International Experience

Monday, April 18, 2011

The University of San Diego has experienced a major growth spurt in terms of international study abroad opportunities. For the last two years, USD has ranked second in the nation for having students who are eager to take a class in a foreign country, be exposed to different food and culture and return with more knowledge of the world around them.

But last Friday night, a few hundred members of the campus community — and even a few beyond — didn’t need to get on an airplane to go overseas or get in a car and drive 20 minutes to the Mexico border to get an international experience. The crowd simply came through the doors of USD’s Hahn University Center Forums A and B and watched dancers, student models and musicians deliver a rousing program with a mix of education and fun befitting an event held each spring since 1985, the International Expo and Fashion Show.

“We’re very proud to continue this long tradition and to be a part of USD,” said Zein Nour, a junior who is originally from Africa but also lived in Italy prior to attending USD. Nour is the vice president of the 150-plus member International Students Organization (ISO), the host of Friday’s 26th annual event.

“It’s the most popular event we do each spring,” said Mariana Luis, ISO president and a senior marketing student in the School of Business Administration who is from Caracas, Venezuela. “It’s a lot of hard work; we put our hearts into giving everyone a cultural experience and I think our work has paid off. It was all worth it.”

Attendees were treated to an international buffet that included familiar fare such as fried rice, Italian pasta, noodle dishes, and quesadillas to more exotic options like Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tandoori, taquitos and Naan.

After dinner, the program began with a pair of Brazilian dancers who came through the front entrance of the UC and worked their way to the runway stage. They also engaged in spirited dancing with several audience members to get everyone in a festive mood.

The event showcased fashions and accessories from 25 different countries representing each of the global continents and either information about the fashions or a fact about the country. The countries represented were Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Venezuela, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Scotland, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

The models, the majority of whom are student members of the ISO, enjoyed their brief time on the runway, sometimes playing to the crowd or doing an impromptu dance. Some even participated in the event by wearing fashions from other countries, thus expanding their own appreciation for another’s country. Among those who participated were Luis, who represented her home country of Venezuela; Alyssa Ong, a sophomore double major in English and Communication Studies, wearing an elegant yellow dress known as a Qipao; and Greg Grassi, a 1999 USD graduate and current assistant director in the Office of International Students and Scholars, who represented Japan by wearing a yukata.

Special acknowledgement was made after the Japan presentation for the country’s continued recovery from last month’s earthquake and devastating aftermath. The audience was encouraged to donate money to USD’s ongoing Relief for Japan effort.

The introduction of each new continent featured a dance, musical performance or cultural demonstration. Spain, representing Europe, was represented by a series of Flamenco dances. African drum beats and a dancer electrified the crowd, first by having students join in for a dance (pictured, above), and then with a solo performance. The Asia introduction consisted of a Chinese martial arts sword demonstration utilizing a technique called Gong Fu, as well as artistic showcase of tea pouring while using Tai Chi movements. The final breakout performance was a series of Persian dances.

Every performance during the night was well received and students were often cheering for their friends as they were strutting back and forth on the runway.

“I thought there was a lot of excitement and great energy shown by everyone,” Grassi said. “There was a lot of personality shown. They were all having fun with it and that was exciting.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

The ISO hosts a World Cup soccer tournament on May 1 at USD’s Valley Field. For more information, contact Zein Nour at

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