Diwali Celebration Lights up KPU Surrey

The first-of-its-kind event was hosted by KPU International on Oct. 20

KPU Students and staff pose for a group photo during the Diwali celebration and dance in the Cedar Conference Room. (Braden Klassen)

The sounds of Punjabi music bellowed out of the Cedar conference room at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey campus on Oct. 20, marking the first Diwali celebration to be held at the university.

The six-hour festival of lights featured a Bhangra dance performance, henna tattoo artists, prayers, lunch, and a dance celebration that lasted for most of the day. It was attended by a diverse mix of students, with some dressed in luxurious silk saris, well-tailored suits, or other colourful clothing.

“I’m really happy to see campus culture expanding into what it is right now,” says Kwantlen Student Association President Tanvir Singh, who was there to enjoy the festivities with his fellow students.

Students dance together in celebration of Diwali in the Cedar Conference Room. (Braden Klassen)

KPU has historically attracted a large number of international students, with the Surrey campus hosting many students from India in particular. Singh says both international and domestic students have Indian origins, and that because Diwali is one of the most celebrated festivals of the year, the KSA decided to partner with KPU International to sponsor the event.

The student association contributed $2,000 to help “cater to the needs of students that we don’t always cater to,” according to Singh.

“We’re always looking for ways to expand the services and the events that we provide to students, and I think this really helps with the breadth of that,” he adds.

Waheed Taiwo and Bianca Meritz of KPU International say that the event was being planned during the six months prior to the beginning of Diwali on Oct. 19. The inspiration to hold an on-campus event for the celebration of lights came directly from the students, who, according to Taiwo, had long been requesting a Diwali festival.

“One of the things that we are looking for is to let them know that we do care about them, and that we care about their wellbeing,” he says. “As well as the fact that we don’t want them to miss out on too much.”

Taiwo goes on to say that most students attend KPU for between two and four years, and that “the experience they have here as a student will determine what they do in the future.” He also feels that events like the Diwali celebration will help to improve the reputation of KPU’s on-campus culture.

(Left to right) KPU Students Gurpreet Harwal, Simrat Sidhu and Priya Kumar celebrate on the dancefloor at the KPU Diwali celebration. (Braden Klassen)

Meritz says that she enjoyed seeing “students who are not from India who came to see what it was like and participate, and expose themselves to a different cultural event.”

For many students, KPU’s Diwali celebration makes them feel closer to home. Attendees Aanchal Suncja and Kuljeet Kaur say that they came to the event because it was the first Diwali celebration they’ve had the ability to attend since arriving in the country around one year ago.

“It’s not only an opportunity for international students,” says Taiwo. “It’s also an opportunity for domestic students … [and the] community to see what life looks like in other cultures, and I think we’ve been able to achieve that.”