Viktoryia Johnson is fit to burst with anticipation for next weekend, when she will attend her first American prom.
“I’m actually very excited,” the Missouri Southern State University exchange student said. “I would like to feel this atmosphere of how Americans live because I hear that American high school students go to prom all the time.”
Missouri Southern’s prom, scheduled for Saturday, April 19, is free and open to all its students, though it’s primarily for the benefit of the approximately 125 international students who attend classes there. International students from Crowder College in Neosho, Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami have also been invited.
“We want them to have all the American experiences they possibly can to take back to their country with them,” said Kimberly Kester, director of the International English Program at Missouri Southern.
Kester said most international students come from countries in which prom is a foreign — and very American — concept.
“I think that for American college students, prom is a memory that they hold very dear; it’s kind of a rite of passage,” she said. “There are a lot of dances and a lot of dance clubs, but nothing is like prom: getting dressed up, having a special place to go to, choosing the theme, putting up decorations.”
Johnson, who is from Belarus, said she participated a few years ago in an all-night dance party that coincided with her graduation from high school. But next weekend will be a new experience, and beyond getting all dressed up in a long, “classy” gown, she’s not quite sure what to expect.
“For me, prom is dancing and meeting people, so that’s how I imagine this,” she said.
This will also be the first prom for Kaori Osada, an exchange student from Japan who looks forward to seeing what it’s all about. Her primary source of information about prom so far has been popular media — specifically, the 2005 film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” in which the title character and his classmates attend a formal school dance called the Yule Ball.
Osada and a group of her friends plan to get together on the afternoon of prom to do their hair and makeup. She even went shopping last weekend with a friend and bought a short blue dress for the occasion.
“I don’t remember when (was) the last time I wore a dress — maybe for a piano competition,” she said. “I cannot wait till next week.”
THE PROM — short for promenade — can be traced back to the co-ed banquets that prestigious American universities held for their graduating classes in the 19th century, according to a 2010 report for Time magazine. The dance as it is known today took hold in American high schools during the 1940s and ’50s.