Our school has no lack of school-centric spirit. The high school presents an impressive turnout at pep rallies each year, and each grade consistently wears their respective class colors with pride. Many SAS students will tell you that spirit, especially for athletic events, is a prominent aspect of the student body. But imagine a day, once a year, when SAS is bursting with the colors not from each grade, but from each nation.
Since 1947, United Nations Day has been held on Oct. 24. The fundamental principle behind “UN Day,” as it is commonly known, is to promote awareness and appreciation of all cultures. Celebrations are vibrant and comprehensive and the inclusion of all countries is vital. Schools across the globe have adopted UN Day – often defining or adapting it to their liking – as a way of celebrating the diversity within their own community.
At a school like ours, with over 60 countries represented, it is fair to say that these cultures and nationalities should be celebrated. With these cultures present in our student population, SAS has the opportunity to celebrate our distinct diversity, but has not taken this opportunity yet, with the exception of the elementary schools.
Growing up in New York City, I attended the United Nations International School, where UN Day was, not surprisingly, celebrated enthusiastically. It was a day when the school community was truly alive. While children came in clothing from every corner of the world, parents swarmed around campus too, the entire school community participating. I was exposed to this from kindergarten until fourth grade, when Singapore American School became my new community. The Early Childhood Center and elementary school at SAS do celebrate UN Day, which many elementary students describe as the “highlight of their year.” However, as soon as middle school rolls around, this tradition stops.
Even at a young age, I was surprised to see that our school did not set aside a day to praise the immense range of cultures we have. In accordance to this, I was even more aware that many of my peers didn’t acknowledge where they’re from. Many answers to that question resulted in the quintessential third-culture-kid response: “I don’t know.” A way to possibly change this answer is to integrate cultures in our lives from the very beginning, upholding the fact that almost all of us are products of diversification.
When I attended the American School of Bombay for one semester during my sophomore year, I was introduced to the culture of UN Day once again. The school’s tight-knit community rejoiced in celebrating “Festival of Nations” (FON) annually. It was, undoubtedly, the definition of spirit. Apart from the many Indians at ASB, there were dozens of other countries represented, honoring their countries with the clothes they wore, the flags they held, and the performances they participated in. While it was truly a fun day, it was also a decidedly important one. My first and only FON event at ASB was one of the best days during my semester at that school, and for good reason.
Other ASB students can attest to the relevance of UN-day.
“While I engage with Indian culture in my day-to-day life, I really get to celebrate and appreciate it through FON,” said ASB senior, Sama Mundlay. “Besides being a lot of fun, it’s a sincere attempt to understand and appreciate cultural diversity within ASB. It also ties the school community even closer, despite the fact that everyone comes from different cultural contexts.”
As third-culture kids, a day celebrating identity may cause a slight panic-attack for those who have third-culture-kid syndrome. But, having an American passport and wearing a sari to school is a way of showing how distinct your identity is. Being born in Holland but wearing a T-shirt with the Singaporean flag is a way of displaying where your home really is. The ways in which we define where we are from are central to our identity.
At a high school like ours, where 1,200 uniformed students pack the hallways each day, identity is something to hold onto tightly and display whenever possible.
“There are so many cultures that are not recognized,” said senior Salil Mitra. “I think we take our diversity for granted, and if we go elsewhere we’ll see how much of it we have here.”
UN Day, and all its derivatives, strives to share how globalized our world has become. Within the confines of SAS, we boast an impressive number of countries represented in our student body and faculty. As students, we may see this diversity every day, but it often goes unappreciated. Having a United Nations day will ultimately foster a more united environment. On that one day, class polos will be replaced with clothing from each of the countries at our school, demonstrating school spirit in its most expansive form.