Activity Information
Recommended Audience
Community members
Length of Time
Maximum of 30 minutes
Resources
Country flags on poles
Number of Facilitators
3-4
Source of Activity
Tradition
Purpose
To make our university community aware of the variety of students we have on our campus


“Parade of Nations”
Fresno Pacific University

Each year, Fresno Pacific University holds what we call the “Community Thanksgiving Lunch” the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. All students, faculty and staff are invited to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and participate in/observe a variety of presentations that strengthen and encourage community unity.

One program agenda is the “Parade of Nations”. The university owns about 75 3x5 nylon flags that are presented regularly on permanent flagpoles. For this event, however, the flags are put onto large wooden poles for carrying.

After creating a sign-up list of countries represented and willing participants, all the appropriate flags are put onto the poles. For transportation purposes, we usually roll up and rubber band the flags until they are ready for presentation (to avoid dragging).

Choosing and prioritizing participants can sometimes be difficult. In the beginning, we were allowing permanent residents or those with a strong heritage to participate in the ceremony. However, the parade became quite lengthy and we found ourselves doing genealogy checks to see whether a person qualified. We then narrowed it to students and faculty who are in the U.S. with a F-1 or H-1b visa. In the case that there is more than one representative from one country, we gave priority to senior, then to whoever signed up first. If space allows, we often have 2-5 people from the same country walk together, but have one to place the flag in the fixture.

Before the lunch begins, all the participants line up outside the gym doors (or wherever the event is taking place). Most participants wear some sort of traditional dress while others were something nice.

At the selected time of presentations, the director of the international office comes to the podium and gives a brief introduction of the office, including some statistics as to how many international students we have for the year and how many countries they represent. The organist or a small band plays a march of some sort (in the past, we’ve use the same music from the Olympic march). Then one by one, the director announces each participant and the country they are from. When announced, the participant enters the gym holding their flying flag and walks amongst the audience to the appropriate location where the flags are hung/strapped/placed for the rest of the meal. We usually present the flags in alphabetical order, not to forget the United States of America!

After all the participants have entered, the director says something to the effect of “Let us be thankful for the diversity that has been brought to our campus,” and the students remain standing next to/under/beside their flag as the entire school gives a huge round of applause. The students are then seated at their reserved tables.

After the event is over, the flags are taken down and removed from the poles by the facilitators.

A Parade of Nations can be done at any event. Due to time constraints in the program, before the lunch the participants marched from one end of the campus to the other to music from a sound system. Once they entered the gym, they went directly to the location where the flags would be placed and waved the flag when their name and country was announced.

Time constraints have also caused us to have half the students on each side of the gym, alternating entrances so that the students can be half way in front of podium before their name is called. This, however, can cause confusion if students happen to get out of order.

This activity is not only a special treat to the community in general, but to the international students as well. It gives them an opportunity to show their pride in their country and let the community know that they have come from across the world to get an education. I often hear students say that they never realized that certain participants were from another country, even after living in the same dorm or having class together. Others, for the first time hear of a country or see the face of someone from a country they’ve never heard of. It also gives members of the community the opportunity to see that a student is from a country they’ve visited and will approach them to share stories.

We love this tradition and hope that others might consider it as well.

The Parade of Nations is part of our annual All-School Thanksgiving Luncheon, so basically they give us a time when we can "do our thing." We are not planning the whole event.

It usually takes about a month to contact the students and get them to commit and sign-up to carry their flag. A few days before the event, we put the flags onto poles that can be carried. The actual parade takes about 20 minutes, depending on how many students/countries you have.

There really isn't a expense except to purchase the flags. If we don't already have the students' country's flag or if a flag is faded, we purchase them from about $25 to $50 depending on the flag. We usually need to order 3 or 4 new flags a year.

We do not advertise because the department hosting the event advertises.


Lessons learned

  1. HAVE BACK-UPS! Students will get excited about the event when asked, but having 25 to 30 students show up on time (if at all) is a chore. I always have back-up students whether they are from that country or not.
  2. At least 3 facilitators are needed. One to do the announcing, one to lead the parade, and one to bring up the rear.
  3. Roll up the flags and rubber band them at the top and bottom until shortly before the parade begins. Don't count on getting the rubber bands back.
  4. Do at least one run-through. Even still, students get nervous and forget where they're supposed to go (even if it is just to follow the person in front of them!)
  5. Have the students either dress in their native clothing or wear something nice. Jeans and flip-flops tend to ruin the effect.
  6. Try to enjoy the parade. Take a step or two back and really take a moment to enjoy your students and see how proud they are of their country. It can be very touching.