International Education Week celebrated diversity at St. Thomas this past week with events including a CultureLink Tea presentation, a soccer tournament and an international fair.
Lori Friedman, International Student Services director, said it’s important for the St. Thomas community to learn about each country and culture.
“It’s important to see the diversity that’s on our campus,” Friedman said. “The world is becoming more global and to learn more about the countries and cultures (will) make them better prepared to have those conversations.”
At Tuesday’s CultureLink Tea, ISS spotlighted Saudi Arabia, the country with the largest representation of international students at St. Thomas. Saudi students spoke about their history, politics and culture, and said the politics in Saudi Arabia are changing with new leaders.
“It’s become more open these days,” graduate student Abdullah Aljubiri said. “People can say and can do a lot of things, not like old days.”
Graduate student Ghassan Gamal said he feels most of the pressure coming from the media rather than from people.
“When I came here I was really comfortable with the people. We actually have good relation with them, and they are really nice,” Gamal said. “The only thing is the news. Always when I open the TV and I look, Saudis are terrorists.”
Roseville High School senior Rahaf Alaish agreed and said people wrongly stereotype Saudis.
“The stereotypes we have and the people that give us (them), that’s our job to prove them wrong and just be ourselves,” Alaish said. “You don’t need to feel pressured.”
On Wednesday, ISS held its first soccer tournament at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. Graduate assistant Alex Hamel said she thought having a soccer tournament would bring together different cultures at St. Thomas.
“It was the whole idea that soccer was kind of the world’s past time,” Hamel said.
Senior Joseph Mueller participated in the tournament because he thought it would be fun.
“It was only a one day thing, so it wasn’t like a long-term commitment,” Muller said. “I figured it’d be a fun activity to do in college: play soccer with some international kids.”
Mueller said if the tournament is offered next year, he will participate again.
“It’s pretty impressive just getting to meet people from other countries and seeing how magical some people are with the ball,” Mueller said.
Hamel thought the tournament was a success.
“I’m totally impressed with the quality because the games are amazing,” Hamel said.
With a good turnout this year, ISS hopes to make the tournament a tradition for International Education Week.
On Thursday, the International Fair brought international students, faculty and staff to the second floor of the Anderson Student Center. More than fifteen countries were represented at tables at the fair.
Freshman Danielle DeRose said she wanted to learn about how many people from different parts of the world are at St. Thomas. She said she especially enjoyed the tables with the Spanish-speaking countries because she was able to use her Spanish skills.
“This is a really cool opportunity to learn different cultures,” DeRose said. “There’s some countries that I didn’t even know existed.”
Senior Stephen Schmall said he enjoyed the food at the Japanese table.
“They gave me some macha tea, which I have not had in some time,” Schmall said. “I know a few of the Japanese students, so it was good to share their culture with us.”
Friedman said she thought students should take advantage of all of the opportunities International Education Week offered.
“It’s a great way to have the world on your campus in one week,” Friedman said.
Bjorn Saterbak can be reached at email@example.com.