International Week celebrates University’s growing global community


A Taiwanese American Student Club member captivates onlookers as he performs with a Chinese yo-yo during the 2013 International Week’s Travel Around the World event.

By Stephanie Kim

International Week offers students, faculty and local residents a chance to explore and participate in the University’s growing global community — but without leaving campus. 

From April 6-12, various events will showcase and highlight the diverse group of nations and cultures that are represented at the University.

“You can do everything from learning about a political issue in another country or hearing the native perspective on an event that’s happening around the world right now,” said Nicole Tami, director for international student integration.  

Events include language and cooking workshops, lectures with guest speakers from abroad, live music performances and even an indoor World Cup tournament. 

Almost every event is free and open to the public, and each one can serve as an “entry point” to the University’s international dimension.  

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“You just have to check the calendar and see what floats your boat,” Tami said. 

One event that is “central and unique” to International Week is the Travel Around the World activity. It offers a rare opportunity for students to see people dressed in native clothing, celebrating their culture. 

Various cultural Registered Student Organizations gather at the Engineering tent space across from the Illini Union, sharing information about their culture and native country. 

This event takes place on Wednesday, April 8, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Taste of Language is an event that both Tami and Matt VanderZalm, communications coordinator of the International Programs and Studies, recommend campus and local community members to attend because of its unique offer to learn a few words in a number of different languages — or what VanderZalm calls “speed dating for language.” 

But that is not to say any other event is less meaningful or resourceful in learning something new, they both said. 

It’s also important to take advantage of these events  and to give back to the international student body as well, said Stephanie Dvorachek, senior assistant director of the International Student and Scholar Services Office.

“Since it’s a good opportunity for international students to share about their culture, it’s important to support them in that way,” she said. 

Despite the large international presence on campus — with nearly 9,300 international students, 350-plus research partnerships and more than 400 study abroad programs in more than 60 countries — many students, staff and scholars are not aware of “how international we are as a campus and as a community,” Tami said.

And that is what she hopes International Week will serve to address by reaching the “unusual suspects” who normally don’t think about the international dimension of the University.  

“There are so many ways to get connected or to get involved,” Tami said. “It’s just a matter of showing up.”

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