A Hamilton audience of about 150 people was taken on a trip around the world on Saturday night, all from within the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts as the Waikato International Students’ Association (WISA) ran its first ever international talent quest.
The competition was judged by opera singer and University of Waikato graduate Jarvis Dams, Analytica team leader and church choir leader Amie Teves, and Indian classical dancer Shailaja Ravi Kumar.
Students from China, India, Argentina, Tonga, the Philippines, the UK and New Zealand performed, each giving the audience a taste of their culture. Performances included singing, dancing and spoken word, and the high calibre of contestants made it difficult for judges to narrow it down to a top three.
Argentinian couple Mercedes Isasmendi Escudero and Juan Manuel Coti took first place for their singing performance, winning $500 cash and $250 of dinner vouchers.
The pair arrived in New Zealand two months ago to study a Master of Business and Management (MBM). They have been singing together since they met in 2010, and it's become their favourite activity.
“It felt incredible to win,” Mercedes says. “We were amazed by the other performances, so it was unexpected. We are extremely happy to be representing our beloved Argentina – and what better way to do it than through music?
“When I decided to study abroad, I wanted a programme that would help me to develop my management skills, and allow me to exchange experiences with other cultures,” Mercedes says. “It was a great surprise when I realised the University not only had everything I expected, but also the most incredible campus I could have imagined.”
Second place went to New Zealand singer Leilani Tipene, and the Tongan dance trio took third.
Special guests Hamilton MP David Bennett and City Councillor Paula Southgate attended the event to show their support. WISA president Shalini Guleria says she was very happy with the way the audience had responded to the event.
“It’s always a challenge to host new events because you’re not sure how they will turn out, but I believe the talent show was a great success,” she says. “It definitely allowed international students to feel appreciated and provided them with a sense of confidence.”
Shalini and WISA vice-president Rosemary Quay have both been involved with WISA since it was launched in 2015. The purpose of the club is to integrate international students into life on campus and encourage them to showcase their cultures. WISA also provides international students with support in their studies, language, finding internships, and industrial networking.
“WISA takes great pride in hosting some amazing events and providing international students with a platform to share their culture,” says Shalini. “Our next big event is the WISA ball in September – keep an eye out on the WISA page for that!”
The event was sponsored by Ember Eatery & Bar, MediaPA, WSU and The Lawrenson Group.