International Education Week kicks off with festivities, food and fun

International Education Week aims to spread awareness about international students and the international education opportunities offered by UNI.

SYDNEY COLOFF, Staff Writer

Office of International Engagement to host dance lessons, food tastings, movie screenings,  educational opportunities

The Office of International Engagement hopes to highlight the many global opportunities here at UNI during this year’s International Education Week. The celebration is a nationally-observed event held Nov. 15-19 promoting the benefits of international exchange. 

UNI is offering many fun and informative events during this year’s celebration. You can learn how to make badrijani nigvzit or butter chicken at two cooking classes held in the State Room of Maucker Union. Students can also learn a dance routine during a workshop led by The MOVEment, watch “Howl’s Moving Castle” at the library or eat hot wings and discuss international education in the CME lobby. 

Students can stop by the Study Abroad Center on Passport Day to apply for or renew their passport and get their passport picture taken for free. There will also be  a PeaceCorps educational panel. Students can experience “Taste of Culture” where you can eat delicious food while learning about different countries and watching performances. 

The week is all about showcasing the incredible diversity and opportunities to interact with people of all backgrounds here at the University of Northern Iowa and celebrating the people who make those opportunities possible. Every part of the university works to bring global experiences to campus, from the Study Abroad Center to the College of Business. 

Whether you study abroad, become a conversation partner for an international student or attend a workshop put on by the Office of International Engagement, there’s an experience for everyone. 

Carolina Coronado-Park, Director of International Engagement, says, “Everyone has an opportunity to explore the world. If it is not traveling the it’s in the classroom.” A great place to start is by attending some of the numerous events at this year’s International Education Week.

In an increasingly interconnected world, it is crucial for domestic students to experience and learn about other cultures. For some students, their first opportunity to learn  about other cultures and backgrounds happens in college. 

For student Ava Deitrich, now a Global Panther Success Ambassador for the Office of International Engagement, college was her first opportunity to learn about other cultures. 

“I’ve actually never been outside of the country,” Deitrich said. “I grew up in Iowa an hour and a half from here, and so when I came to UNI, I started interacting with the international community and that’s how I got involved. I never knew that we had such a large population (of international students) until I got here.”

Deitrich is now friends with many international students who she has met through her job at the Office of International Engagement and believes it is important for all domestic students to interact with international students. Not only does talking with international students help them feel more at home on campus, but it can be an eye-opening experience for domestic students as well. 

The university has been working hard this past year to recover from the virtual halt of international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the situation is slowly recovering. Over 70 new international students were welcomed to UNI this past year, which brings the total international enrollment to 236. 

Due to COVID-19, the enrollment numbers are down from 548 students in the fall 2016. According to Kristi Marchesani, Associate Director of International Recruitment, applications for fall 2022 are up 68%. University officials hope the numbers continue rising.

The Study Abroad Center hopes to send around 250 students on faculty-led trips this year, and the College of Business hopes to make studying abroad even more accessible to its students. One in four students in the College of Business will have a study abroad experience during their time at UNI. The university is working to change that number to 1 in 3 by searching for affordable options that allow students to graduate on time.

Carolina Coronado-Park, Director of International Engagement, also believes in the importance of domestic students creating relationships with people from other cultures. She emphasizes that these relationships “help us to be able to learn about other cultures (and) help us also to reflect about our own.” 

This sentiment is also echoed by Paula VanZee, director of the Study Abroad Center. VanZee said, “You realize oh, not everybody is like me, and it doesn’t mean that they’re better or not, it just means that they’re different.” She added that International Education Week is all about broadening perspectives and celebrating the growth students go through at UNI. 

As always the university is working hard to make sure international students feel integrated into the community. In the conversation partner program, international students are matched with domestic students to practice speaking English, get coffee, or just hang out together. The Office of International Engagement matches 23 host families around the Cedar Valley with international students. These families welcome them into their homes for a shared meal and conversation.