Annual International Education Week helps student express culture

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The Study Abroad Office at the University of Southern Mississippi successfully launched and concluded their annual International Education Week (IEW).  

IEW, which spanned from Nov. 8 to Nov. 12 at Southern Miss, is actually part of a national initiative to encourage international exchange and education worldwide. International Education Week is an annual event jointly orchestrated by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. This year, it stretches from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19 in many parts of the country.  

Southern Miss’s IEW celebration put an intense focus on giving students from other countries a space to learn and exchange their experiences and cultures with international and domestic students.

This began with the Cultural and Diversity Fair within the Thad Cochran Center this past Monday. It gave international students from all around the world a chance to talk about their home countries.  

This event was centered on students currently studying English within Southern Miss’s English Language Institute (ELI). Founded in 1947, the ELI currently has 11 full time students and two part time students.  

One of those 13 students is Anh Nguyen, who is originally from Bien Hoa, Vietnam.  

“I have never enjoyed any event like this before, so I really like it. I can meet a lot of people from another country,” Nguyen said. “It’s a lot of countries and a lot of things to learn.” 

Students within the ELI program strive to obtain fluency in English. After students complete the program, most pursue further education to obtain undergraduate or graduate degrees. Nguyen plans to enroll as an undergraduate student in the spring and study mathematics.  

The Tuesday and Wednesday festivities kept campus organizations supporting International Education Week busy, and many students across campus engaged.  

The study abroad office was behind the Study Abroad Fair, which occurred last Tuesday, to explain some of the programs they offered. For example, they explained that Southern Miss’s biggest and longest-lasting study abroad program, the British Studies Program, will span the entire month of June.  

There are currently 14 students studying abroad this semester, and the Study Abroad office hopes to add onto that next semester.  

Later that evening, there was a presentation on Haiti and a game night, both orchestrated by the Southern Miss Activities Council. The game night also featured international foods and drinks, such as boba tea, for students to enjoy.  

The events on Wednesday occurred on both the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses. A Lunch and Learn happened on Long Beach while a Cricket match and movie night were hosted in Hattiesburg. Staff from the ELI participated in the Cricket match, and helped out with refreshments during the ‘My Louisiana Love in the Hub’ documentary.  

Kacey Cole participated in the Cricket match and is the Assistant Director for the English Language Institute. She proudly displays the name of each student, as well as their country of origin, in ELI within her office.  

“We haven’t done much in the last year and a half because of COVID, so the Center for International Education is trying to do more for our students this year, to let them know there’s a great big community, not just of international students, but of people who are willing to welcome them,” Cole said.  

On Thursday, the Study Abroad office began their annual photo contest on Instagram. This year’s theme was “International Day of Dress”, which called on the university community to display clothing that best represented their cultural background and heritage. Results of the competition were announced the following day. 

An international food showcase was also held in The Fresh and featured dishes inspired by Jamaica, France, Italy and India. The line for the crepes bar was long, and the jerk chicken received a good review from Jamaican student Maegan Williams. 

The biochemistry major did more than eat chicken on Thursday, however. Later that evening, Williams also participated in a fashion show in the Union. During the show, she dawned a bandana dress, a symbolic and ceremonial garment of clothing within Jamaica. 

Williams believes events like the fashion show for International Education Week are not just exciting for participants and audience members, but informational as well.  

“I feel like a lot of students just don’t know or they’re curious, but they just don’t know how to get involved,” Williams said. “And so events like this bring everyone together from different cultures, and if there’s something that someone [is] curious about, they can meet that person.” 

Jessica Bunales is the Assistant Director of Southern Miss’s Study Abroad programs. She expressed a similar sentiment to Williams.  

“It’s so much fun to go and learn from these students and see things that they do back home and how they can bring that to us,” Bunales said.  

The last event for the week was a cooking show, streamed live on the Study Abroad’s Instagram page. It featured two Spanish delicacies: garlic mushrooms and marinated dogfish. Since there are no dogfish in Mississippi, alligator was used as a substitute.  

This was done to allude to an upcoming study abroad trip to Spain in July 2022. There are currently 10 Southern Miss students studying abroad in Spain this semester.  

To find out more about international scholar services on campus, be sure to email [email protected] To get more information on study abroad programs over the summer or next school year, reach out to the Study Abroad office at [email protected]