Spreading love around the world

International Coffee Hour takes place in the Larricia Room in Jones Hall. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Tala Alsharif
Jambar Contributor

Valentine’s Day is a holiday rooted in Christian and ancient Roman traditions, and it’s largely celebrated in western countries such as the United States. 

Despite the holiday’s western origins, Valentine’s Day has become popular among non-western communities, including international students at Youngstown State University. 

According to history.com, the origins of Valentine’s Day and its saint remain mysterious, as the Catholic Church recognizes various St. Valentines. 

One legend suggests a priest named Valentine defied Emperor Claudius II’s marriage ban, leading to his execution. Another legend suggests Valentine aided Christians’ escape from Roman prisons, where he may have fallen in love and sent the first “valentine.”

These contributed to his image as a sympathetic and romantic figure, making him popular in medieval England and France, but celebrated across many non-western countries. 

Priyanka Silwal is a sophomore nursing major at YSU. Silwal said Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many parts of the world, including her home country, Nepal.

“Love is love. Love is universal. It’s just a different language,” Silwal said. “[In Nepal] we celebrate love.” 

Silwal said she gave valentines to friends in Nepal, and she believes everyone should participate in the holiday’s traditions. 

“I don’t think it particularly needs to be between lovers,” Silwal said. “We can [all] give each other roses [and] chocolates. That’s what I did with my friends.” 

Freshman computer science major, Ankit Kharga, moved from Nepal five months ago and said he’s excited to see how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. 

Kharga usually celebrates Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend in Nepal. He plans to take part in the holiday despite the distance.

“I will definitely send her some gifts from here, I will try to celebrate Valentine’s Day with her,” Kharga said. 

The International Programs Office hosts International Coffee Hour at Jones Hall every other Friday, where international and domestic students get together in the Lariccia Room over coffee and snacks.

In spring 2023, the IPO gave students Valentine’s Day cards to write notes on and pass to each other, according to Nicholas DuBos, coordinator for International Student Services. 

“You have like a little card you give someone at that event,” DuBos said. “We also had a lot of candy and stickers for people to give each other.”

DuBos said there are over 1,000 international students at YSU, with approximately 70 countries represented in the international study body.

“Most of our students are from two countries, Nepal and India,” DuBos said. “We have a fair number of students from … Bangladesh, South Korea [and] Vietnam.” 

DuBos said a goal of the IPO office is to be inclusive to international students and help integrate them into the university’s community. 

“Our goal is when our students come here … we immerse them into the community and give them opportunities to do things,” DuBos said.