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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Breaking barriers, building bridges

International Engagement Week 2023 Preview
International students wear the flags of their home countries as they prepare to compete in the CATS Traditions Challenge Amazing Race during the week of Homecoming.

Over 60 countries, more than 120 languages, and 160 students. From Bangladesh to  Pakistan, UNI’s international student community will have the opportunity to showcase their country and culture during the annual International Education Week (IEW) from Monday, Nov. 13 to Friday, Nov. 17.

IEW is dedicated to celebrating international education across UNI’s campus, which includes international students, international faculty and faculty and departments that implement degrees and programs engaging global perspectives. 

Ava Deitrich, the student services coordinator for the Office of International Engagement (OIE), said this week allows people to expand their worldview by learning about different cultures and countries.

“It’s so amazing what students bring from their countries,” Dietrich said. “The traditional dress that they show, the foods that they share, where else are you going to get that experience? Especially in small-town Iowa or even the Midwest.”

Umas Nangavulan, an OIE admissions staff member and former international student from Taiwan, emphasized the importance of learning about cultures different through OIE and IEW.

“Having this community here is just for people to understand better, and also to break walls and build bridges. The world is really messed up right now, so it’s important that you get to know people from different perspectives.”

The OIE will be hosting numerous events throughout next week, and a few highlights can be found below. A full schedule of events can be found at 

Throughout the week, international food will be served in Piazza and Rialto. Rod Library will be showcasing international authors and artifacts from over 50 countries. 

Monday, Nov. 13: Open Minds, Open Doors

IEW will kick off its celebration by encouraging the campus community to dress in their respective cultural attire. The OIE will be hosting an international photobooth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

After you’ve visited the photo booth, check out the faculty panel from 2 – 3 p.m. in Maucker Union’s Elm Room as they discuss international events and how it affects us here in Iowa.

St. Stephen’s Catholic Student Center will also be hosting an intercultural potluck from 6 – 8 p.m., and everyone is encouraged to bring a favorite snack or a dish to share. Dietrich encouraged Midwestern students to bring an iconic Midwestern dish to the potluck, like tater tot casserole or marshmallow fluff, in order to introduce international students to classic Iowa dishes. 

Even if domestic students are hesitant to reach out to international students, Nangavulan hopes students will be willing to chat.

“You can talk to us, you know, we don’t bite. We can introduce our culture because we’re not only here to immerse ourselves in American culture, but also we want to say, ‘Hey, here’s something about our culture too.’” 

Tuesday, Nov. 14: Meet Our International Community

Join UNI International Alumni who live across the U.S. and the world as they discuss what opportunities there are beyond graduation, and how UNI helped shape their personal and professional lives. This event will take place over Zoom from 10 – 11 a.m.

Pop by Curris Business Building’s Hall of Flags from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to visit the International Club of Business Students’ snack and dessert bar with cuisine from around the world. Learn more about the Hall of Flags, while chatting with current international students.

Dietrich is particularly looking forward to this event saying, “They’re providing free food from around the world, so where can you go wrong? There will also be photo ops, discussions of culture and business.”  

One of the most popular events hosted by OIE, Taste of Culture, will take place from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the Maucker Ballrooms. Experience and explore food from over 50 countries around the world while learning more about different languages, cultures and cuisine. Last year over 300 attendees came to this event.

“Everyone is proud of their culture and they share the story they have,” Nangavulan said. “They don’t necessarily have to represent the whole country, but their culture. Then when you actually talk to someone from that region, that country, that religion, you get to know more in depth about their experiences.”

Wednesday, Nov. 15: Arts and Music

As part of IEW, renew or apply for your passport at the Study Abroad Center in East Bartlett 103 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Want to try your hand in creating Korean Lotus Lanterns? The OIE has collaborated with the Hearst for the Center of the Arts this year to bring international art and artists to UNI’s campus. The workshop in creating Korean Lotus Lanterns will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Maucker Union room 109P. 

Thursday, Nov. 16: International at Home

Check out the numerous student organizations, community programs and other organizations within the Cedar Valley that help support the international community at UNI. Learn how to get engaged in these organizations and the international community by stopping by Maucker Union from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To finish out the day, the OIE and ThreeHouse Collaborative Campus Ministries will be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner to recognize partners, volunteers, collaborators and students. An RSVP is required for this event. 

Friday, Nov. 17

Finally, to round out the week, join the OIE as they reflect on the week for some morning coffee and cookies from 9 – 11 a.m. located on the plaza level of Maucker Union. 

Beyond IEW, Dietrich hopes students will reach out and get involved with UNI’s international student programs.

“Just getting involved is the biggest thing,” Dietrich said. “No matter how small it is, making that effort means a lot. There are also student orgs all over campus international students are involved in. There’s International Student Promoters, International Student Association, we have all the multicultural orgs in this that the CME hosts, like Asian Student Union, the African Student Union, the Indigenous Student Union, the Muslim Student Association.”

She continued, “Besides from the international community, diversity is not hard to find, necessarily, on campus. You just have to search it out. It might not be huge, but it’s here.”  

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