Students share cultural experience during International Week

The University is home to 8,850 international students who represent over 115 countries. International students will be able to show off their cultures during the various events of the University’s International Week.

“It is really a time to highlight when the international component of our campus can be showcased and give international students an opportunity to share something about their cultures,” said Nicole Tami, director for international student integration, who has been in charge of International Week for over five years. “It is exciting to see not only how much is happening on our campus but how many world cultures and regions are represented.” 

According to Tami, the week features new events along with events from previous years. One new event that Tami said she is looking forward to is the screening of “From China to Urbana-Champaign,” a 30-minute documentary about the University’s history with China, on Friday at the Asian American Cultural Center. The documentary was made by University graduate Xing Zhuo. The event is sponsored by Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies and the Asian American Cultural Center.

Among the events happening this week is the Travel Around the World Festival, which will take place on Wednesday and is sponsored by the International Student and Scholar Services and the Intensive English Institute. It will feature international groups and RSOs that set up booths on the Engineering Quad to represent their cultures. The booths display anything from music to slideshows to free food. Attendants are given a passport to get stamped at each booth and can collect a free t-shirt if they get ten stamps. 

The idea for this event to take place during International Week came from Sondra Schreiber, assistant director for ISSS. The university that she previously worked at came up with the idea, and she brought it to the University of Illinois three years ago, she said.

“I liked the idea of the sharing concept and showing people on our campus the cultures we have represented here,” she said. “I like that it gives our international students and groups the opportunity to introduce their culture to the greater campus community and open peoples’ eyes (to the cultures.)” 

Schreiber said this year there will be around 20 booths, and she encourages students to attend the event.

Another event that ISSS is sponsoring again this year is Taste of Language on Thursday. Attendees can take 25-minute introductory language classes. Taste of Language started last year and was thought of by Schreiber’s colleague, Jessica Biddle, assistant director of ISSS. There will be two sessions, both held at the University YMCA.

“It’s almost speed dating but for languages,” Schreiber said. “A lot of people are interested in languages but don’t have time to study them.”

Students who speak languages including Chinese, Kazakh, Zulu, Arabic, Portugese, Wolof, Turkish, Arabic, and Diné, will teach the classes.

For more language learning, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts will be hosting tours in different languages, which will be taught by staff members and students who speak various languages. “The languages are different every year,” said Bridget Lee-Calfas, advertising and publicity director for the Krannert Center. “Sometimes we know particular needs in the community so we wanted to seek out Chinese students.”

Lee-Calfas is looking forward to the Krannert Center hosting this event again because it usually well-received, and large groups usually make an effort to come. The tours will be offered Monday through Friday, hosted in Chinese on Monday and Friday; Spanish on Tuesday; Serbian on Wednesday and Thursday.

International Week will showcase study abroad students as well. Each year, a contest is held for them, called the International Photo Contest. Study abroad students are asked to submit a photo and a short essay about their study abroad experience, Tami said. 

All of these events and many more will be happening throughout the week. A complete calendar of events can be found on Illinois International’s website or on their Facebook event page. Almost all of the International Week events are free, and everyone is welcome. 

“We encourage not just students but staff and community members to come to our events,” Tami said.

Above all, Tami believes International Week is a time to learn from the University’s students about other cultures. 

“You can have a really rich cross-cultural experience just by talking to a student from another country,” she said.

Abby can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that that the University has 7,991 international students whom represent over 40 countries. The article should have stated that the University has 8,850 international students who represent over 115 countries. The Daily Illini regrets the error.