The University’s third annual International Education Week will begin Friday, Nov. 15, as a part of a national initiative from the U.S. Departments of State and Education to promote global exchange and international education around the country. This year, the University’s International Education Week is meant to reassess how internationalism is celebrated.
“Across the country, different schools decide if they want to participate in it, how do they want to participate in it, but it’s really an opportunity for campuses to think about global and international engagement,” Director of the Fries Center for Global Studies Stephen Angle said. “Particularly, they’re interested in celebrating this global exchange and celebrating the fact that we are sending students abroad and there are international students who are coming from abroad.”
The schedule for the week is filled with programs offering students a chance to learn about different cultures and identities and featuring cuisines from around the world. The first event of International Education Week will be Taste of Africa, held at Beckham Hall at 7 p.m. on Friday, bringing together students from the continent and the diaspora in order to share and celebrate the rich diversity of Africa.
Assistant Director of Language & Intercultural Learning at the Fries Center Kia Lor said this year’s theme of reassessing internationalism was designed after thinking about negative attitudes towards international communities in the current U.S. political climate.
“When we all sat together as a team to think about what is the theme for this year, and what is the purpose of it this year, we were interested in re-evaluating what it means to celebrate international education,” Lor said. “When we really look at the administration through our critical lens, we realize that international education and internationalism in terms of H1B visas, in terms of immigration, with all the rhetoric that happens politically, it’s actually not very celebratory.”
Lor has been involved with International Education Week since the University began participating in the initiative three years ago and said some of this year’s events, like “Peer to Peer: Navigating Internships and Summer Experiences for International Students” and “Stories of Displacement,” are directly related to current political sentiments.
“Every year we’ve learned and made adjustments,” Lor said. “What are we really celebrating, when there are actually a lot of walls and a lot of things that are blocking students and people from getting their H1Bs, for careers? Or for DACA students who are undocumented, to think about what does globalization look like at that front, and stories of displacement…. So that’s kind of the angle that we’re taking this year that’s new.”
Lor explained that another key goal of the week is to have students both share their own stories of international education and learn from others’ experiences.
“To celebrate and to also have students get to share their own stories about their own lived experiences in terms of what international education means to them,” Lor said. “Then, really to cross-pollinate, right, to have students participate in events that are meaningful for them and they get to organize and they get to lead, but at the same time to show up for other people and other events, so that they understand that there are different struggles and different experiences here at Wesleyan in terms of different students coming from different parts of the world.”
The core organizing team for this year’s International Education Week consists of the Fries Center for Global Studies, Gordon Career Center, Office of International Student Affairs, Shapiro Writing Center, and the Resource Center. Many student organizations, including the African Student Association, Ajùa Campos, International House, Pangea, and the Wesleyan Refugee Project, and departments also co-sponsored the events planned for the week.
“I think that that has been probably the most powerful thing for International Education Week from the beginning: it’s always been collaborative,” Lor said. “For sure, it’s a collaboration across campus.”
Angle and Lor hope this celebration of internationalism will continue beyond next Friday.
“It’s meant to highlight what is happening and then also be a platform that leads to more things happening,” Angle said. “These are things that are happening all year long, and what International Education Week allows for is us to really shine a light on it, and I think that we and the campus have benefitted from things that follow on from this…. We highlighted this particular week, but it really is ongoing.”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.