January 12, 2010
by Basil A. Panton '11 and Osric A. Forrest '12
One afternoon last semester started with unexpected disorder for a group of Hampden-Sydney students. These gentlemen, who were supposed to have already departed the campus to reach an event at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C, dubbed "Euro Night," were just scrambling their way to the entrance of Graham Hall. It was late afternoon, and disorganization reigned.
As soon as everyone assembled, however, the evening progressed smoothly. By 4:30 we left campus with the hope of not missing too much of the event which was scheduled to start at 6:30. The event was a showcase of the European Union nations' attractions -- culinary specialties, styles of entertainment, exquisite liquors, dances, music, and the like. The event was attended for the second consecutive year by members of the International Club.
We arrived in D.C. at sunset, and the consensus was that everyone should park where he could, and we would take the Metro to the embassy. For some, the Metro ride was a new experience. On the Metro, conversations of past experiences in native countries flowed. Students even chatted with other passengers on the train. Within a short time, the train came to a stop in Georgetown. We walked for about ten minutes, and as we entered the gates of the French embassy and approached La Maison Française hall, we were overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
Inside the hall was an expectant crowd that moved from table to table in order to obtain their preferred European memorabilia. Our bunch instantly went to the counters that had food -- we were hungry from the long trip. Then we all dispersed through the gathering.
Each country offered memorabilia, travel guides, wrist bands, souvenirs, and stationery. In addition, Germany offered appetizing sausages; Spain distributed its delectable paella maesco; Greece provided samples of its wines, and Finland gave out a succulent soup. Other nations from small Malta to middle-sized Lithuania to large Poland did not fail to surpass our expectations. For instance, the highlight of the night was Swedish hip-hop artist Adam Tensta who rocked the audience, and the gentlemen from Sydney made sure we were not left out, mingling with with European attendees, participating in conversations and dances.
After more than three hours of cultural immersion, everyone was trying to muster some energy. The event ended and, satisfied that we have had enough for one night, we decided only to go to nearby restaurants to satisfy our churning stomachs. After that, we had another drama-filled ride on the train to where we had parked our vehicles.
The outing was a fun and enriching experience. Euro Night presented a grand opportunity for international students to be in U.S. capital and for all the club members -- foreign and American -- to explore the attractions of Europe. Indeed, the diverse and lively surrounding at La Maison Française at the French embassy truly lived up to the International Club's motto: "To foster relations through cultural awareness."