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Right Now: Virtual International Education Week In Full Swing

Wright State UCIE office / Photograph: Emily Linker / WSU Guardian

Wright State UCIE office | Photo by Emily Linker | The Wright State Guardian

International Education Week will be coming to Wright State University (WSU) during the week of Nov.16-20, featuring a series of virtual events for students to learn about different cultures. 

The purpose of International Education week 

The week started as a joint project between the U.S. Departments of State and Education to “celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide,” according to the project’s website.  

Director of the University Center for International Education (UCIE) Michelle Streeter-Ferrari believes that this celebration is useful for all students, regardless of where they come from. 

“It’s to celebrate international education but also highlight the importance of engaging in international education, both for us bringing talent here to the U.S. through international students, but also engaging our domestic students to learn about the world and to participate in international opportunities such as internships and study abroad,” said Streeter-Ferrari. 

A virtual environment for events 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in-person activities for International Education Week have been put on hold. Instead, students can connect digitally to participate in events. Despite the hectic conditions of the fall semester, the event allows students to forge a deeper connection with each other than if they just searched for information online. 

“There’s no more important time for us to learn about other cultures, other political systems and other customs because what we’re learning through the Internet is very superficial,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “It’s not like sharing an international meal with an international student or learning about a different holiday. Those are things that we’re not going to learn at a superficial level. We’re going to learn through personal exchange with others.” 

To foster this connection, the UCIE staff tailored their workshops and events to fit an online environment. 

“We have had to change our programming to meet the needs of our audience in the midst of a pandemic,” said UCIE Associate Director Joy Wanderi. “We picked events that would only work for a virtual audience.”  

Events that will be featured during International Education Week include a cooking event run by Chartwells on Monday, a yoga session Tuesday and multiple study abroad workshops throughout the week. There will also be an international photography competition and an open mic night on Nov. 20, where the winners of the photo contest will be announced. 

Streeter-Ferrari believes that the transition to online events has not been an easy one. 

“I know that people have Zoom fatigue,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “We’re doing our schoolwork online, we’re seeing family online, so we’re trying to combine things that are serious and learning opportunities for folks to engage but we’re also trying to do fun things.”  

Electrical engineering student Devadharshini Soundararajan, who is an international student from India, has found that online learning, in some cases, helps her learn better than if she were in person. 

“The classes are being recorded,” said Soundararajan. “We had an exam, and it was easy for me since, as it is a recorded class, I got an opportunity to listen to it again and again if I couldn’t understand a particular topic.” 

A host of international food 

An aspect of the virtual events Streeter-Ferrari is less than enthused about is the inability to provide international food for the students. 

“The best part of International Education Week is that we’re eating all week, and folks love to try new foods and learn about different new foods,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “That’s been hard, but by doing some cooking and other events where people can get their own ingredients and make the food, that helps.”  

UCIE will also be encouraging students to order food from international restaurants near campus to help the event resemble its in-person version.   

Who can participate? 

International Education Week is open to everyone including prospective and current students and members of the community as well as students from different state schools throughout Ohio, as these universities are sharing their International Education weeks. 

Streeter-Ferrari finds this to be an appealing benefit by hosting these events virtually.  

“There’s no limits to who can participate, and that’s the nature of International Education Week,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “It’s trying to get everybody involved and learn about the world and learn that by understanding each other, we can advance everybody’s cause. I think there’s been so much division, definitely in the U.S. but across the world, and I think that by experiencing each other’s cultures, trying to see each other’s point of view, that’s how we move society forward.” 

Students can study abroad through UCIE virtually at the moment, visiting different countries around the globe through their computers. For example, during a normal school day, a student could work at an internship in the U.K. in the morning and learn Spanish in Chile in the afternoon.  

“That’s a new thing that I think, moving forward, we will be returning to in-person activities and education and study abroad, but I think some of these components we’ll have to keep and we will keep them,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “We find it nice that we can spend our day with different people across the globe and not have to leave our living room. It’s a brand new world for sure.” 

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