Students gathered together for International Education Week in the Memorial Union. Photo by Autumn Walter.
International Education Week is being held at the University of Rhode Island, with different events each day for students, faculty and staff.
The week kicked off on Monday with “Taste The World” and “The World in Fashion.” This is a combined event held every year in the Memorial Union. Students were invited to enjoy coffee and free samples of food from all over the world, acquire study abroad information and watch a cultural dance performance.
There was also a student showcase of traditional dress from foreign countries, which was put on by URI Global and the Textile Honor Society. Students could speak one-on-one with them to get a better understanding of the context and history of different cultures from around the world.
“I think this is a great way for students to have something to talk about,” said Shelley O’Connor, the coordinator of International Student Programs at URI. “It [grounds] their attention, especially these beautiful dresses that some of the students have from India and Sri Lanka.”
A brand-new event was also offered this year. The event was an information session about national student-exchange opportunities for international students.
“If [an international student] wanted to study out west, they could look at some universities that we have an exchange program with and so it gives them an additional way to explore the United States,” O’Connor explained. “Many domestic students used this in the past, but we realized that it also can apply to international students.”
There have also been multiple panels going on throughout the week regarding studying abroad. Most of the panelists are either students or URI alumni sharing their own personal experiences and advice.
One of the newest panels being run was the Peace Corps Volunteer Panel. According to Nancy Stricklin, assistant to the provost for Global Strategies and Academic Partnerships, the panel was made up of four peace corps volunteers, all of whom were URI alumni. The countries they volunteered in were Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ecuador and Benin.
Stricklin specifically asked the panelists to detail how to apply to the Peace Corps, but she also wanted them to talk about the cultural adjustment in terms of food, language, housing and environment. All of these factors are drastically different than in the U.S., especially in the small African countries.
“In Rwanda, there was a local language that [a panelist] had to learn,” Stricklin said.
Since a Peace Corp volunteer must serve a minimum of two years in their selected country, the panelists also discussed the adjustment of coming back to the U.S. and how their service has impacted their life since their return.
“For some students or volunteers, it definitely shapes the next chapter of their lives,” Stricklin said.
Some of the events offered were also designed to be helpful for international students by giving them more confidence when it comes to studying and getting a job in the U.S.
“We’re trying to give them opportunities to support their navigational needs,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor also said that this week is an ideal time to encourage domestic students to study abroad.
“We want to show them peers that have gone out of their comfort zone and have come back with a wealth of information and tell them how much fun it was,” she said.
Today, there will be a session about studying abroad, including planning a study abroad experience and completing the application process, as well as an information session about Fulbright programs. On Friday, there will be a lunch and discussion about Global Resilience, a student panel about Gilman International Scholarships to study and intern abroad, and more. On Saturday, the final day of International Education week, international panelists will gather in the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center for a discussion with a theme about saving the planet.