International Education Week: 'Explore, Engage and Embrace' the World

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Four SNHU students holding a flag at the International Education Week culture fair.

Almost 20 months into a global health crisis that made the term “social distancing" commonplace, the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) community celebrated an interconnected world and learned about different life experiences. 

Participating in International Education Week (IEW) for the 16th year, virtual and on-campus activities brought students, staff, faculty and alumni together to learn from one another. “This year, we encouraged our community to explore, engage and embrace the world around us,” said Leanne Bowden, IEW committee chair and assistant director of International Student Engagement at SNHU.

Panels, information sessions and social events were planned to help attendees learn and develop skills needed to become global citizens – including curiosity, understanding and communication. “It is our hope that through offering a variety of events throughout IEW, our community will have the chance to explore new ideas, engage in new experiences and embrace opportunities to internationalize their SNHU experience not only during IEW but beyond,” Bowden said.

Campus Exchange

Offices and organizations across campus, in addition to the World Affairs Council and Global Citizen’s Circle, teamed up to host events that showcased the cultural diversity within the SNHU community. From a Global Pop Trivia Night to a lesson in Japanese Woodblock Art, Olympic sports to Bingo with internationally inspired prizes, a variety of activities offered spaces for community members from various backgrounds to come together for fellowship and, at times, friendly competition.

Three SNHU students talking at a booth with cookies at the culture fair.A culture fair allowed international students to introduce others to the qualities they love about their home countries and way of life. Colorful flags filled the SNHU Student Center, and booths featured photos, maps, traditional clothing and ornaments, as well as some samplings of food that gave visitors a window into cultures around the world.

SNHU’s Deborah L. Coffin Women’s Center facilitated a conversation around the subject of “home” and how people define it, and Associate Professor of Communication Andrea Bard offered a session on cross-cultural communication strategies.

“After a year of just virtual opportunities, we saw a tremendous amount of interest in our in-person events,” said Ally Snell, director of International Experiences and Programs at SNHU.

“Many of them reached room capacity on campus, and we were excited to see so many SNHU students engaging in their world through our programs.”

Global Education Movement (GEM) students, who study at SNHU from refugee camps in Africa and Asia, gathered as a virtual panel. They took turns sharing information about their favorite sports and food, as well as the challenges they’ve faced and what pursuing higher education means to them and their futures.

Planning for Future Growth, Near and Far

There were also components of IEW that allowed students to learn how they could maximize their experiences at SNHU. For example, one dinner explored travel opportunities such as faculty-led programs, study abroad and the National Student Exchange. “It was a wonderful opportunity for students to engage with the many different types of international experiences we offer, and a chance for them to go deep into their questions and interests,” Snell said.

Chris Florek ’20, a graduate assistant for the School of International Engagement Study Abroad Office, spent a semester in Florence, Italy, while majoring in sport management. “By putting myself in a situation outside of my comfort zone, the personal and cultural growth that I experienced has helped me with personal and professional relationships and has even helped me get hired for certain positions,” he said.

Florek, who knows the importance of international education, supported IEW through event promotions and social media management. “Each culture can teach people something new about language, communication, cultural awareness and relationships with people from different backgrounds,” he said. Through international education and learning about different cultures, he believes you can draw connections and bring people closer together. 

“Without my experiences with international education and without my relationships with international friends and colleagues, I would not be where I am today. These experiences have helped me grow as a person," Florek said. “... The value of listening and patience becomes much stronger after experiencing new cultures and environments different from the one I have grown accustomed to over time.”

An SNHU student standing behind a booth at the culture fair, handing good to an attendee.There are opportunities available to those who crave more international education beyond their time in college, too. Some sessions during SNHU’s IEW shared information on how students can apply for the Peace Corps or a Fulbright Scholarship once they finish their bachelor’s degrees. “I had the opportunity to host a Fulbright Scholarship roundtable event, featuring staff and faculty who are Fulbright alumni, said Snell. “It was such an incredible opportunity to learn about the experiences my colleagues have had, from doing gender and development in Pakistan to environmental law and policy in China and researching great apes in the Congo.”

And if you’re looking for something closer to home? Snell suggests looking for ways to engage with diverse communities in your town. For example, The Chandler Center at SNHU, which fosters civic engagement through learning, service and reflection, coordinates community service projects within Manchester's refugee and New American communities. 

Snell’s office also launched a virtual exchange program. “We facilitate the cultural connections through a series of dialogues, and then students have a chance to work with students from other cultures and countries on a shared objective,” she said.

International Education: A Way of Life

Although International Education Week only comes around once a year, event organizers at SNHU wanted the community to know international education is an ongoing effort. 

“It is so important that we continue to seek out opportunities to internationalize our experience, both inside and outside the classroom,” Bowden said. “Whether this takes the form of conversations with students and faculty from around the world, taking part in an overseas exchange experience or volunteering locally with a globally focused nonprofit.”

Whether you’re hoping to travel to another country or are looking to connect with diverse communities in your area, IEW is a celebration of intercultural connections. “We all should reflect on the positive impact we would like to make as global citizens and take steps to realize this,” Bowden said.

Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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