New flags decorate STU after changing of Wall of Flags

Still of the president of the St. Thomas University International Student Association Alberto Chavez, while preforming his closing speech for the wall of flags ceremony this past November 15th, 2023. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

Walking into St. Thomas University’s James Dunn Hall, something immediately noticeable is the vast wall of flags on display that hangs above the downstairs study area. For some, these flags are just decoration, but for many international students, these flags provide a sense of home.

Thursday, Nov. 16 marked STU’s annual Wall of Flags changing ceremony, where faculty, students and members of St. Thomas University International Students’ Association (STUISA) spoke on the international student community at STU.

“When you come from around 5,000 kilometres … it’s nice to see that your flag is represented on campus,” said STUISA President Alberto Chávez.

Every year, STU changes the flags to represent the countries that international students at STU call home. This year, International Student Coordinator Carrie Monteith-Levesque said the new additions include Croatia, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and Cuba. 

Related: ‘I’m a proud momma’: Carrie Monteith-Levesque, international students’ biggest support

Chávez spoke at the ceremony and highlighted international student perspectives, their contribution to the STU community and how internationals can be perceived on campus.

“For me, it was an opportunity to give a different perspective,” he said. “So I just wanted to give my point of view of being a student and how the community has helped me so much in growing.”

As an international student from Ecuador, Chávez attributes his personal growth to the community, specifically the international student community. He notes that as a first year, he paid little attention to clubs and societies, and was mainly focused on “experiences and going to parties and stuff.” But the vast perspectives and backgrounds of other international students inspired him to leave his comfort zone.

“It made me realize that there was so much things to do, like I can be much more than just a person who goes to parties,” he said. “The community helped me realize that I could be much more.”

For Chávez, fostering that sense of community is what the Wall of Flags is all about.

“Even if you’re the only student from that country, it’s really nice to see part of us already being reflected on a foreign country and your community.”

First-year student Ana Laura Roman Rodríguez knows what it is like to be the only student from a certain country, as she is the only student from Cuba at STU. 

When she arrived to STU in the summer and saw the Cuban flag wasn’t represented, she felt sad. But seeing her flag newly mounted gives her a sense of home.

“It reminds me of home and it’s kind of like I’m bringing a piece of my home just so I can share it with other people. So that means a lot to me,” she said.

The Wall of Flags is one of Roman Rodríguez’s favourite parts of STU. She said the flags, along with the efforts of the international students office, make her feel seen amongst the wide array of students.

“Even though you’re like a tiny little speck here in this country, someone sees you and someone knows that you’re there, or someone recognizes that you’re here amongst everyone else, but you’re still different and that’s okay.”