Diversity spreads throughout campus in International Education Week

“Jest wiele powodow dla ktorych wazne jest celebrowanie roznorodnosci.”

There are many reasons why it is important to celebrate diversity, said junior Lukasz Wlosiak in his native Polish.

Wlosiak is the president of the Eastern European Club, which has taken an active role in promoting International Education Week at St. Thomas. He said International Education Week is important to raise cultural awareness.

“We live in a globalized world, and everyone should have a feel of how other countries are,” Wlosiak said. “I believe that there are basic things that everyone should be aware of, and International Education Week is one small step toward that.”

International Education Week started in 2000 as a national initiative led by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.

IEW’s official website states its goal is “to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.”

Mohammed Al Zaher, a graduate assistant at the Office of International Student Services, encouraged students to get involved this week.

“There are a lot of international students from different countries and different backgrounds, and this time of year is very important because they feel like the university gives them the chance to share some cultural aspects with Americans and other international students, too,” Al Zaher said.

Although St. Thomas has recognized International Education Week for a while, larger events such as the International Fair started appearing in 2004.

So far this week, there has been a Japanese Tea Ceremony, a presentation on Australia and climate change, and a Culture Link Tea Presentation on Brazil. The International Food and Fun fair took place Thursday during convocation hour. The fair is the biggest event held during the week, and students said they learned a lot at the event.

“This is a good event for all students to attend because it is not just about the countries being represented, but the student clubs and organizations are here too, and it is a great way for everyone to come together,” junior Sha Mohammed said.

Senior Albert Kertho from Uganda said the fair provides an aspect of learning that the classroom can’t offer.

“I think the international fair is the best opportunity for students to learn more about many countries and cultures, even more so than in a classroom setting, because
there are real people here from the countries that you can talk to face-to-face and take time to listen to their real-life experiences,” Kertho said.

For the first time, the Eastern European Club and the Foreign Affairs Club hosted an international film festival featuring a foreign film every night this week. The films came from a variety of countries from Israel to New Zealand.

“I wanted to come up with some exciting campus-wide events so that students can become internationally aware,” Wlosiak said. “Movies are an interesting yet fun way to learn about other countries.”

The clubs shied away from choosing well-known foreign films such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Instead, the club chose movies that would be fresh for St. Thomas students.

“We were looking for movies from different parts of the world that have a message and that are interesting to watch.” Wlosiak said.

The Grill is also offering special foods from various countries this week to promote IEW. So far the Grill has served international dishes such as baklava, pierogies, jollof rice and a Chinese buffet.

The remaining activities for International Education Week are listed below:

Friday, Nov. 19

  • Culture Fest will feature multiple performances from 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. in the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium. Free tickets are available at the Box Office.
  • “Love Aaj Kal,” an Indian love story, will be shown at 8 p.m. in room 126 in the John Roach Center for the Liberal Arts.
  • The Grill will serve a Brazilian pot roast with roasted vegetables from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dan Cook can be reached at cook9156@stthomas.edu.