Augustana promotes international perspectives

Anh Bui

According to the government website dedicated to the week, International Education Week (IEW) is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences.

The Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS) organized the first IEW since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Augustana offices, clubs and organizations took part in hosting events to provide a rich and educational experience for students, according to Xong Sony Yang, director of OISSS.

“12 percent of our students are international students who come from 42 different nations,” Yang said. “IEW is an opportunity for them to share diverse perspectives to our domestic students. It is a time to promote cultural understanding, engage in conversations and share respect that everyone should be giving towards each other.”

The OISSS exclusively hosted a multitude of events such as international students celebration day, global cafe and refreshments and to kick off IEW, the first ever global lecture series. Arun Gandhi, grandson of social activist Mahatma Gandhi, was the speaker in this year’s Global Lecture.

“It was a monumental moment to be able to secure Arun Gandhi here in Augustana,” Yang said. “Our students can learn and benefit greatly from the event, and we hope to continue to invite influential speakers to the Global Lecture Series.”

Another event hosted by OISSS is friendsgiving, a large dinner party that celebrates the friendships that have been made at Augustana with an evening of blessing ceremonies, international cuisine, and entertainment, from the description provided by OISSS,

Friendsgiving was almost canceled due to the heavy amount of work required to make it happen, according to Yang. However, junior Marth Zarwolo, lead program coordinator of IEW, said the incentive of the event is to give support for international students who are unable to go back home to see their families and friends during Thanksgiving. 

“We want international students to know that there is a small family here for them who understands what they are going through,” Zarwolo said. “Friendsgiving offers a safe place and brings us international students together, who share similar experiences and challenges.”

IEW is also an occasion for international students to learn about American culture, such as Greek life, according to sophomore Riva Kansakar. A part of IEW, Greek council and the office of student life hosted the first ever greek life fair for Augie international students. Kansakar is an international student from Nepal and a member of the Sigma Pi Delta sorority.

“Greek life is not really a thing back in Nepal, so prior to joining my sorority, I had no idea what Greek life was,” Kansakar said. “The fair is a good start for students like us to engage more with unique American experiences, to socialize and meet new people that we wouldn’t have [otherwise].”

To Yang, the goal of IEW is not just about attendance, but that whoever attends will be impacted by the speech or the workshops that are given by the global lecture series speaker, students, staff and offices.

“Augustana really is global,” Yang said. “We are actively engaged in internationalizing our conversations and our community to provide students with diverse perspectives. It is our hope to perfect IEW and continue to host it in the future.”