There are any number of ways for students to go global at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. Study abroad and service learning in communities across the world are one way for Carolina students to expand their campus, but students are also enriching their academic careers right here in Chapel Hill through global and cultural student organizations. Currently, there are over 80 registered student organizations with an international focus at UNC, comprising roughly 10 percent of all registered organizations. They are diverse group, including service projects, arts programs, professional organizations, faith-based groups and more. UNC Global caught up with a just a few international arts and literature organizations to see how they are helping undergraduates make the most of their time at Carolina.
Mezcla, meaning “mixture” in Spanish, is UNC’s only bilingual magazine, publishing in Spanish and English on a semester basis. The magazine was started in 2004 as a component of a first-year seminar class taught by Julia Mack, a Spanish lecturer in the Department of Romance Studies. It evolved into an independent student publication and has become an avenue of expression for students of Latino/a heritage. Mezcla welcomes onto the staff anyone with an interest in issues that affect the Latino community and a desire to develop their writing, editing, publishing and design skills.
“We’re very small, but we’re committed to publishing regularly. All of our work is student driven, and each issue is really a reflection of the work and ideas of the students working on it,” explained Tat’yana Berdan, co-editor-in-chief.
Mezcla’s content is diverse — recent issues have included a student’s personal narrative about her experience harvesting coffee in Guatemala with her family as a child, opinion pieces on public policy affecting the Latino community, poetry about a family’s immigration story and treasured family recipes.
This flexibility with genre allows the magazine to highlight the multifaceted experience and impact of Latino/as and to engage with current debates in the community at Carolina, the state and beyond. In keeping with this emphasis, their 2016 issues will feature pieces on the upcoming presidential election and the renewed — often negative — attention the party primaries have brought to the topic of immigration.
“Because we are a bilingual publication, I think we offer students a unique platform where they can write about their experiences and practice their language skills,” Berdan said.
Mezcla meets every Monday at 5 p.m. in Dey 307. New members are always welcome. Copies of the magazine are available for free on the UNC campus in magazine racks at the House Undergraduate Library, Davis Library and Graham Memorial Hall. Digital archives can be found at mezcla.web.unc.edu. Follow Mezcla on Twitter at @mezcla_unc.
Samaa, which means “time” in Hindi, is a co-ed a cappella group that combines western pop and alternative music with more traditional Indian and Bollywood pieces. Since their start in 2011, the group has grown to 16 members, mirroring the growing popularity of the South Asian a cappella scene in the United States as a whole since the 1990s. Despite this surge in the popularity of South Asian a cappella, Samaa is the only such group in North Carolina.
Members see Samaa as an avenue for cultural expression, as well as a way to represent the South Asian experience at Carolina. For members like Sabah Kadir, the performance group is “literally giving us a voice on campus.”
The multicultural basis of the group’s musical influences, combining western and South Asian elements, reflects the lived experience of many of its members.
“Samaa really embodies how most of the members identify as members of the South Asian diaspora,” said member Pooja Joshi. “We’re all really passionate about bridging the divergent aspects of our identities as South Asian-Americans.”
“It’s really cool to have something that represents [our experience] in a way that everyone can see and appreciate,” added Kadir. “We are South Asian and we are American.”
The team writes every arrangement, which is often difficult as western and South Asian songs can be in different languages and scales. It’s a challenge the members embrace, despite their varying levels of formal musical training.
Samaa can be found in Murphey Hall, typically in room 314, practicing for two and a half hours every Wednesday and Sunday for upcoming performances around the Triangle. Their annual spring concert will be held this year on April 9, 2016, in the Genome Science Building at 6:30 p.m. More information about the organization can be found at samaa.web.unc.edu. Follow Samaa on twitter at @UNCSamaa.
Carolina Irish Association
The Carolina Irish Association (CIA) is an Irish dance group that performs throughout the year at campus and area events and offers classes for beginners and experienced dancers. Irish step dancing is characterized by rapid leg and foot movements while the upper body, including arms, are kept still. In the 1800s, the Irish diaspora brought step dancing to North America and other parts of the world.
“Our mission is to share Irish culture with the campus and local community through Irish dance,” said Olivia DeSenna, CIA choreography chair. “Our organization shares this beautiful, culturally unique dance form and contributes to the diversity of our university through performance.”
CIA has performed at events such as Carolina for the Kids, Relay for Life and Fall Fest. These events bring the campus community together and often raise money for worthy causes.
The group also serves the local community, providing a free class on Thursday nights for all would-be step dancers that covers the basics of Irish dance, such as “skips” and “sevens,” danced to a mix of traditional Irish dance music and modern pop music.
“Though there are many dance groups at UNC, there is truly no other campus organization like ours,” DeSenna added.
CIA meets for two hours every Monday night. For information about the team and performances contact Jocelyn Meusel at email@example.com, join their Facebook page or visit their website, carolinairishdance.web.unc.edu.
By Sandy Lerebours ’16