International Education Week, from Nov. 11 to Nov. 15, is a weeklong event run by the United States Department of State and the United States Department of Education. It is celebrated by many colleges and universities in the United States. The goal of International Education Week is to promote international students coming to the US to study, and American students going abroad for the same reason.
Developed in 2000, International Education Week is now celebrated by more than 100 countries worldwide. This year, the first time Drew University officially celebrated, has been a success with the help of several organizations such as the International and Off-Campus Programs, Campus Life, and international students themselves.
During International Education Week, the different cultures represented in Drew’s student body are celebrated, because there are so many people from different places. “We are fortunate at Drew to have so many students with international backgrounds–some are here on student visas, others hold dual citizenships but have lived abroad for many years, and many were born in another country but are now living in the US as permanent residents or naturalized citizens,” said Laura Arthur, Director of Drew’s International Student Services.
As part of the International Education Week celebrations, there have been several events on campus, from a common hour presentation for first year students on study abroad programs, to an international art display (with calligraphy, world trivia, and origami), to international food being served in the commons and the flags in the Ehinger Center. There was also an information session for students learning and maintaining foreign language skills.
For faculty and students who have studied or led programs abroad, the Office of International and Off-Campus Programs gave buttons, so fellow Drew students and/or faculty could find out more information about the programs and hear their experiences.
“Less than 300,000 students, or two percent of the entire undergraduate population, from the US go abroad per year. At Drew, about 10 percent of the students study abroad,” explained Stacy Fischer, Director of the International and Off-Campus Programs. If we look at the numbers of all United States students who studied abroad, it is 10 percent, whereas at Drew University, 50 percent of the graduates traveled for educational experiences!
“We are very committed to international education. The London Semester has been running since the 1960s, and one third of all Drew faculty went on a study abroad program at least once,” described Fischer.
Explaining the importance of studying abroad, Fischer said, “It makes people competitive, learn skills that are important for any job we need and to be successful in life, makes us independent, apply what has been learned in the classroom in the real world, and also allows us to see multiple perspectives.”
Megan Day (’14), studied abroad in Seville, Spain and participated in an international seminar in South Africa for three weeks during the spring and summer of 2013. On the study abroad program in Seville, “I really liked it. It was really cool and interesting studying politics in Spanish, and learning with Spanish students. I think everyone should get a chance to study abroad. I’m glad they’re doing this to spread awareness on international education. Underclassmen should realize this opportunity and plan their schedule to study abroad, do a short term, or a summer program. People cannot be guaranteed to get opportunities to study abroad after college.”
Ricardo Castro (’14), participated in the Drew International Seminar (DIS) that took place in Brussels, London, Amsterdam and Luxembourg during summer 2013. “It was really interesting to be able to visit places we studied. It gives you the opportunity to explore new cultures as well as new traditions. I think this international education week makes the international students feel like home and not left out, because of the flags in the EC and food of each country at the Commons. I recommend to all students to take DIS because it is an experience we cannot get anywhere else.”
Eduardo Moran (’14) was part of the same summer 2013 seminar. Of the program, Moran said, “it was wonderful. I enjoyed the time with classmates and professors. We got to go to different places we studied during spring 2013. I got to know different people from European institutions which helped me embrace my Economics knowledge. I enjoyed the culture from places I visited, the food, and I had a great time. Regarding International Education Week, it is wonderful that Drew does this type of event because it makes us explore different cultures around the world so we can visit them.”
Midori Tagawa (C ’16), founded International Student Association, and was one of the people who helped make International Education Week a success. Tagawa, an international student herself, expressed her feelings on how some of the international students feel on campus. “We do not have a big voice in the classroom; we are almost invisible, because if we do not know English, we cannot interact and participate in the class discussions.”
The International Student Services Office is working closely with the newly formed International Student Association to promote global awareness and to develop programs and activities that bring together American and international students, so that they can learn from one another and develop the cross-cultural communication skills that are so important to succeed in the world today. When talking about the International Education Week and how it was planned, Tagawa said, “This event was approved last month, so we did not have a lot of time to plan it.
However, next year, we aim to make this a bigger festival, and involve a lot of clubs on campus. We want to include more people and increase awareness of international education and international students, by having different cuisines available, traditional dress from around the world and cultural activities.”
Arthur also said, “Next year, we plan to organize early in the semester so that the entire University gets involved and we hope to end the week with a big international food festival — something we know everyone would enjoy!”