International Education Week highlights diversity and inclusivity. Photo courtesy of Sarah Marhevsky.
By Yousra Hussain
During International Education Week, amongst the crowds of people piling their plates with food in McClurg and the buzz of chatter, the eye-catching, colorful, and resplendent clothing adorned proudly by the international students on campus was a unique addition. Whether it was the turquoise qipao or the crimson lehenga laced with sequins, international students made their mark on campus celebrating their culture, ethnicity, and country.
It wasn’t just about celebrating the cultures that exist on campus, however; it was about increasing the awareness and knowledge of the different cultures other students don’t always notice.
“Gayle [Manacsa (C’21)] had asked us to wear traditional clothes, and at first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I realised how much of an opportunity this was to show up and show out. We proudly wore these bright, beautiful and different outfits today and got to truly represent where we’re from,” remarked Puja Basnet (C’21), president of the Sewanee Asian Organization.
Besides celebrating culture through traditional clothing, the Director of Dining Chef Rick Wright introduced different, eclectic cuisines every day throughout the week. Each day represented a different continent.
From dishes like Chinese moon cakes to the Rwandan beef stew, the food tasted as good as it smelled.
“International Education Week is important because of the power of food to connect and equalize. Sharing traditional cuisine that is passed down from one generation to the next strengthens our relationships,” said Wright.
“Food is an expression of cultural identity; sharing our identities through food with the larger community brings us together in a common necessary act, [and] builds community, tolerance, and understanding,” he added.
The Office of Global Citizenship and organizations such as the Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding (OCCU) organized various events and competitions across campus. Events included a ‘The World Through Your Eyes’ photo contest, the Around The World event at McClurg, and the international folktales night.
These events allowed students from all over campus to participate in International Education Week whether they were international or not, providing an opportunity to learn and appreciate the diversity on campus.
“The whole experience was splendid. I loved to learn about the tales from other countries and was proud to share mine,” said Szonja Szurop (C’22).
Although the week was a success in increasing awareness of the cultures on campus, it shouldn’t just be for a week. Students should be able to share their knowledge, culture and experiences every day, however deep their roots are in different countries.
Whether it’s from a study abroad program or just a five-day vacation, knowing about the world enriches a person and offers them new, divergent perspectives. The values learned from International Education Week should be applied throughout the year to highlight the importance of diversity on campus.