The Center for Global Engagement hosted the annual IMAGES last weekend to a full audience. Community members and Hope College students filled the Knickerbocker seats so much that some people had to find seats on the stairs to watch the show.
Fara Ling (‘23) and John Kim (‘24), two of the Emcees this year, with the third being Susan Davies, share their experience with IMAGES and what the event means to them.
The first IMAGES performance was in 1994 (check out the Anchor article posted on the Van Wylen library Instagram!) and it has been a tradition ever since, as students from around the world showcase elements of their culture. Ling performed her freshman and junior years, with no IMAGES in her sophomore year due to COVID-19. This is Kim’s first IMAGES event.
The event is comprised of multiple performances. Rehearsals for the performances depend on the individual groups. Ling describes, “[At] the beginning of the semester we got our group together, started brainstorming ideas, planning and meeting. This year for the Emcees, we had to audition for the Emcee position, but there wasn’t really much for us to do until this week when tech rehearsals and dress rehearsals started when we could actually see all the different acts, and see what we have to work with.”
Commenting on the legacy of IMAGES, Kim says “If Hope is known for the Pull or Nykerk, international students actually know IMAGES more than those two. It’s an opportunity for international students to show where they are from– what their cultures are… so a lot of seniors or juniors, the upperclassmen, invite the underclassmen, ‘Hey you want to come perform in this act… hey you want to do a dance, you want to join this club, etc.’”
Ling similarly adds, “I think the thing about IMAGES is it’s such a community effort with community building. It’s kind of multigenerational, even though it’s only four years apart– you have juniors and seniors passing the tradition down… [It is] similar to the Pull and Nykerk in that sense. People usually think of the Pull and Nykerk as Hope’s two annual events, well there’s a third and that’s IMAGES. I think an important message to send out is it’s not just for students who are citizens of other countries, but also [for] multicultural students within the US, and even really anyone. In past years the French club performed… German language students also did one another year… and so it’s a really vibrant community of people coming together and learning about other cultures.”
On What IMAGES Means to Ling and Kim Personally
Kim responds: “Hope college has around two or three percent of international students which is around 70 to 80 students, excluding the third culture kids who are US citizens, and abroad. Having [only] 70- 80 international students, we don’t have very many opportunities to really represent ourselves. I mean, even the Americans around here have a hard time representing themselves, how are international students going to do that? It means a lot to the international community. The Center of Global Engagement staff try their best to set this up every year, and they try to get more international students and local students from Hope involved because it’s a really nice bridging opportunity for the locals in Holland and Hope College to see the existing cultures, international cultures, at Hope. It’s a great celebration, it means a lot.”
Ling states: “There is diversity that exists at Hope. It’s not always visible, but it exists, it’s here. I’ll draw from my personal experience: my first IMAGES, freshman year, was the first time on Hope’s campus that I felt like I could be my Malaysian self and be truly seen for that. I was speaking Malaysian English, I was in my act with the other two Malaysian students that were here at that time, and we were joking about how Phelps food compares with food back home, joking about the weather, Malaysian timing, etc. That was like the moment for me when I felt seen at Hope for who I am at home. That was such a profound and meaningful experience for me and for other people that I knew to be able to witness that [like] my friends, my professors who hadn’t seen me, hadn’t recognized me in that light before. Personally, that is super meaningful to me and I know that many other students can say the same thing.”
The biggest challenge in preparation for this year’s IMAGES event is the added work to the students’ already busy schedules. Kim says “The biggest struggle is that we are still students. And we have projects and exams to do. This is the end of week 11 and having Thanksgiving break coming up we know that professors are going to drop exams and final projects before the break. [So it’s been important to] balance being responsible for performing or setting up things for the event and trying to do homework and keeping up with academics at the same time. But I think we all believe that it’s going to be worth it.”
Ling also has had a busy schedule with being involved in H2 Dance Company: “It’s such a crazy month, there are all sorts of things happening, even the day of IMAGES itself there are a whole bunch of activities and events happening on campus. I’m part of H2 Dance Company and we just closed last week, so I’ve gone from tech for H2, to performance for H2, to another performance, and coming right into this, so it’s a lot but it’s meaningful work and it keeps me busy.”
Ling’s message for everyone is, “I know that this is a busy time of year and there are a hundred things competing for your attention but IMAGES, if you have not been, [is] something that you do not want to miss. It’s one of my favorite events that happens on campus, and it’s vibrant, it’s a celebration. It’s an experience that I can’t really describe and you have to be there in person to see it.”
If you missed IMAGES this year, make sure you catch it in the fall of 2023!