International Education Week is a national event that celebrates international studies, research courses, languages and students. This year, the global celebration lasts from Nov. 13 through 17 and centers around the theme “International Education is the Future.” Ohio University began celebrating International Education Week, or IEW, in 2013, and this year's theme recognizes partnerships with schools from across the globe.
This year marks OU’s 50th anniversary in partnership with Chubu University in Japan. Chubu University has the longest-standing partnership with OU and has helped grow the international program in several ways.
“Most of our partnerships, including Chubu, started with just a faculty connection,” said Gillian Ice, interim associate provost for Global Affairs. “That one grew in very unique ways that I don’t think we have anything else like it. It’s probably pretty unique in the nation.”
Ice discussed how the president of Chubu University and some of his team are coming at the beginning of IEW and have several events planned. One of the events involves a donation of trees to Friendship Park, which is part of TailGreat Park on campus. Chubu University initially donated the cherry trees on OU’s campus in 1979, so this IEW activity continues the tradition.
“Chubu is donating 50 new cherry trees,” said Ice. “We are working on a pavilion that will be in there so that people can sit and enjoy the trees.”
IEW incorporates events that educate university professionals as well.
“I will be hosting a workshop on partnerships for particularly faculty and staff because I think if you haven’t participated in developing a partnership before, it’s intimidating,” said Ice. “We do have a number of faculty who’ve done a great job at facilitating very active partnerships.”
In addition to the theme revolving around partnerships, IEW also highlights international student’s cultures and lifestyles. According to the univerisity's diversity dashboard, international students make up 3.9% of OU’s student body.
Collins Ketere, a second-year graduate student from Kenya studying African Studies, discussed his takeaways from OU so far.
“I think the people are all so amazing,” said Ketere. “The community is a wonderful community because I’ve interacted with them during street fairs where we partner with Athens County and the office of the mayor. The community around here is wonderful, they always come out to support international students.”
Ketere discussed some of the personal connections the exchange has brought him, an example being one of his professors who also taught internationally.
“When I talked about an issue in Somali, he was like, ‘I did my PhD in Sudan, I know that issue,’” said Ketere. “That already connects us because what I know, he knows.”
IEW naturally celebrates international students’ connections at OU, but it also encourages all OU students to get involved and learn about different cultures.
“I think the objective is really to promote the idea of global thinking by inviting different people to participate in different activities,” said Tigistu Beyene, a fourth-year graduate student from Ethiopia studying African literature. “It’s important to promote cultures and experiences.”
IEW is not the only time students can learn about their international classmates. Ice said it is beneficial for international students to be at OU year-round because they can teach other students about what is happening around the world.
“I would say in particular, the African continent is often expressed in the news in a very negative way,” said Ice. “We have students on campus that have shown that people excel from all the countries in Africa, and so having those international students here all year round obviously helps share those perspectives with students and have that cross-cultural exchange.”
According to Ice, students need to be educated on international studies, therefore IEW has multiple activities that students can participate in throughout the week. There will be different workshops focusing on world languages, as well as a rapid presentation thesis competition that encourages students to share their research about international studies.
Beyene said he has several roles to fill this week.
“I’ll be engaging in leadership training,” said Beyene. “As the president of international students, I’ll really monitor things (and) how things are really going around campus.”
Students who want to get involved and look into the IEW events can go to their website for more information. Beyene said social media will also have information, and encourages all students to join in the celebrations.
“If I find something that catches my attention, I will post it on my social media or we will share it on our Instagram,” said Beyene. “It’s going to be really fun.”