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Spring Festival Away from Home

By JONATHAN LEE RONG SHENG



Image description: Jonathan (far left, bottom row) with members of the Student Union team during a lion dance performance


THIS year marks the third time I have spent the Spring Festival in the United Kingdom since coming here for studies. While the air is thick with the promise of new beginnings and the anticipation of joyous reunions, there is a palpable sense of longing that tugs at my heartstrings as I am once again spending the festivities away from the comforting embrace of home. 


Things were slightly different this year. Having been elected Ethnic Diversity Officer at Newcastle University’s Student Union (NUSU), I had the privilege of bringing the celebrations to my university instead under the Festival of Cultures banner.


Festival of Culture is a brand new NUSU initiative for this academic year which aims to celebrate cultures, traditions, and different communities of students at Newcastle University. It is also a society-focused initiative, allowing societies to tailor events to the students involved and showcase their cultural diversity.


Specifically, the celebrations identified were Hanukkah, Lunar New Year, Holi, Ramadan, and Cinco de Mayo. 


There were two notable collaborations between NUSU and societies. On 8 February, Anglo-Chinese Society and Nutritank Society held a dumpling wrapping workshop. Dumplings are believed to be shaped like ancient Chinese gold ingots, and consuming them is believed to bring good fortune and financial success.


The Malaysian Society here also had a cultural booth where they shared traditional costumes, games, and snacks with university students. They also prepared yee sang (prosperity toss), and for myself, it provided a sense of familiarity despite being miles away from home.


Apart from the mentioned activities, the Officers at the Students’ Union also conducted activities such as giving out red packets, organising a Chinese calligraphy workshop and bringing a lion dance to campus. 


Why the hassle of organising these activities, despite being in the midst of my final year? As the Ethnic Diversity Officer, who is responsible for representing the interests of all ethnically diverse students at Newcastle University, I am acutely aware that it would be impossible to eradicate racism in university the next day.


However, through activities that spotlight and celebrate different cultures, I believe we can foster better understanding among students from different communities on campus. It is through better understanding of one another that we learn to respect differences and find similarities in the common thread that makes us human.


I have also been comforted that my efforts were not in vain as students from China, Taiwan and other countries that celebrate Spring Festival conveyed to me that the activities provided them with a sense of home. Increasing students’ sense of belonging on campus has been a goal that the Students’ Union have been working hard towards.


Reflecting back, I find myself drawn to the essence of what it truly means to call a place home. It is not merely a physical location but rather a sanctuary where the echoes of laughter and the warmth of cherished memories intertwine to form the very fabric of our existence.


In the end, spending the festivities away from home is not merely a test of endurance but rather a testament to the enduring power of love, connection, and community. It is a reminder that no matter where life may take us, the bonds that unite us remain unbroken, weaving a tapestry of resilience and strength that transcends the confines of time and space.


With that, I wish everyone who is celebrating a happy new year, and may the Year of the Dragon bring to you abundance, wealth, and good health.


Image description: Jonathan with members of the Malaysian society during a yee sang tossing activity


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