|Length of Time
||Preparation- 3 hours, parade- 2 hours|
||Truck, flatbed, hay, candy, paper decorations, flags|
|Number of Facilitators
|Source of Activity
||To expose the general university community to the diversity on campus and to allow international students to participate in an American cultural event and to give different nationality groups a chance to work together on a project and get to know one another|
International Homecoming Parade Float
Planning for the International Homecoming Parade Float began by recruiting committee members from the International Student Association. Once a group of students were selected, they developed a float design and a list of necessary materials. We organized for a local man to loan us a flatbed that he was willing to pull with his truck. This ended up being an interesting cultural experience in and of itself, as it gave our students contact with a local they would have otherwise had no reason to meet and vice versa.
The day of the parade we had everyone meet at the work site about four hours before the parade was scheduled to begin. Each nationality group was asked to make a flag for their respective country. We borrowed some hay and a saddle to work in a cowboy theme. Our university is known as the Cowboys. From there, students were given free reign for decorating the float. We had balloon and crepe paper, all common decorations but arranged with international flair and originality. About fifty students helped decorate the float and about thirty chose to ride on the float.
For our ESL students, this was a wonderful immersion project as they had to follow verbal instructions for the planning and decorating and during the parade they were able to interact with the by-standers. For our other students, this was a fantastic introduction to American culture and traditions. Many students were impressed by the sense of community at American universities. For the general public, it showcased our diverse international student body and emphasized their desire to be part of the greater community and their openness to American culture.
By the end of the parade, there was a general feeling of enthusiasm, excitement, and even pride, all of which came at a time in the semester when many students begin to feel homesick and lonely. After the parade, many of our students attended university sponsored events, such as the pep rally and the bonfire, events which they previously had not typically attended. The overall consensus was that the International Homecoming Parade Float was a great success.
Program Development Timeline
I began organizing the International Homecoming Parade Float in mid-September, just after fall semester classes resumed. Homecoming is usually in mid-October, so we had approximately one month to plan and organize.
The first task was to establish a small group of student leaders to form committees and come up with a design. We also had to complete the required paperwork to enter our float in parade.
The second, and perhaps the most challenging, task is to locate a trailer to stage the float and a truck (and driver) to pull everything. Depending on how urban or rural your campus is, this task may be more or less easily accomplished. We were able to find a local farmer interested in participating and willing to volunteer his time and equipment.
The third step was to buy the necessary decorations and supplies as well as the parade “throws”. We did this about three days prior to the parade.
Finally, about five hours before the actual parade, we assembled as a group and began to decorate the trailer with hay, paper flags designed by the students, posters with the word “peace” in each language, streamers and balloons. We had to put off decorating until the very last minute, as the truck and trailer were not available sooner and we would have had no place to store them otherwise.
After the parade ended, we cleaned the trailer and disposed of any leftover items.
We were able to do the International Homecoming Parade Float for approximately $200, though much of the “throws” were donated by local businesses. The supplies we purchased included: paint, paper, balloons, hay, candy and bandanas for the students. We also gave the gentleman who volunteered his truck and trailer a $20 gas card to help defray any of his expenses and to thank him for his generosity.
Much of the communication and advertising for this activity were done via word-of-mouth and the International Student Association. We also included the event in the monthly newsletter and encouraged students to participate. The largest group of participants came from our ESL program, as the instructors offered a few extra-credit points in return.
Evaluation of Lessons Learned
We will be organizing the International Homecoming Parade Float for the second time this year. With the gift of hindsight and experience, there are several aspects of the float that we hope to improve.
First, while the impromptu, freestyle decoration was fun, we plan to follow a more organized decorating plan this year with an emphasis on one centralized theme. We will delegate specific tasks to certain groups of students and limit the number of last minute ideas. By doing so, we hope to place more value on the planning committee’s ideas and efforts and to give our float a more unified design. With more emphasis on design we may actually be able to complete in the competition for prizes that judges floats for originality, active participation and school spirit.
Second, in keeping with our international focus, we are now encouraging students to wear traditional dress or something specific to their culture. The general public is often very interested in anything unique or authentic.
Third, many of the floats in the parade have music, so we hope to incorporate a variety of different musical pieces from different countries into our float.
Forth, while we were delighted with the student participation in planning the float, we were surprised by the reluctance of many students to actually ride the float or to participate in other university sponsored events after the parade. At first, we thought we would have to have a selective drawing to choose the students on the float, but ultimately we found ourselves having to ask students to ride. This year we are also asking the International Student Association to work with other student organizations on campus to help promote and welcome the involvement of international students in the variety of homecoming festivities after the parade ends and throughout the homecoming weekend.
Finally, in the future I am looking to create an International Alumni Association and to use the homecoming weekend as a time to welcome former students back to campus. Often with international students, the idea of an alumni network is not very well understood, and I would like to be able to emphasize the value of alumni contacts and to encourage students to maintain ties with the university after their studies. My goal is to make the International Homecoming Float a positive experience that students will want to remember and perhaps, in the future, return to see.