By Aleksandra Sidorova
The Global Education Office collaborated with student clubs and college departments to bring to campus a series of events to mark International Education Week, nationally recognized Nov. 14 to 20. These events included mini language lessons and diverse cuisines offered at Clinton Dining Hall.
Students were encouraged to mark places of their birth or cultural heritage by placing a push-pin on a map hung up at the H.U.B. in Angell College Center Monday. The day also featured an informative session on study opportunities in Canada.
Students of culturally-based clubs — Fuerza: Black and Latinx Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, the Japanese Cultural Association and the Desi Club — tabled and offered brief lessons in various languages Tuesday. Many of the lessons included greetings and introductions, while Fuerza offered positive affirmations in Spanish. Visitors also had the opportunity to see their names written in another language. Languages featured included French, Hindi, Japanese, Malayalam, Mandingo, Sindhi, Spanish, Tamil and Urdu, among others, exceeding GEO’s goal of five. Ten of the featured languages were brought to the event by the Desi Club, one of SUNY Plattsburgh’s newest clubs. This was the first event they participated in on campus.
Wednesday marked Wear Your Culture Wednesday, a day where students wore clothing that represents their heritage or a place they have been to. If a student followed GEO’s Instagram page (@geo_plattsburgh) and uploaded a photo of themselves in front of the world map in the H.U.B. with the hashtags #MyPlattsLife and #PlattsAbroad they would be entered into a raffle to win a gift card to the Campus Bookstore. A Study Abroad session was also held at Redcay Hall, focusing on programs for studying sociology.
There was a Cultural Open Mic Night on Thursday. The event marked one of the first uses of Burghy’s Lounge, also called Burghy’s Den, since the completion of renovations over a month ago. Today, Clinton Dining Hall is offering international food from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.. The switch from lunch to dinner will happen at 4 p.m. Student Association Senator for Global Education Nilay Vaidya from Mumbai, India, said he was the most excited for the food to be offered at Clinton.
The goal of the event is to bring awareness to the international students at SUNY Plattsburgh. International students are a population that has historically made up over 5% of students at higher education institutions, according to International Student Assistant Heather Garcia and Oscar Cedeno, graduate assistant for International Student Services at GEO.
“The purpose of International Education Week is really to celebrate students who come from all parts of the world to seek education in the United States and abroad,” Garcia said.
Vaidya shared his experience with international education.
“I know the value that education brings,” Vaidya said. “When you go to a different country, you explore. You have a different perspective on life, I think, when you return back, and that is the thing that makes me passionate about International Education Week.”
International Education Week also celebrates the various cultures represented at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“I think that sharing culture is important also because we learn so much from one another, and we learn from our similarities and differences, and those similarities and differences have a value that’s just immeasurable, really,” Garcia said.
Cedeno said the emergence from COVID-19 is the ideal time to host a culturally-centered event like International Education Week.
“Everyone has isolated themselves from everything and everyone over the last two years,” Cedeno said. “Culture couldn’t be shared the way it should have been. Zoom was optional, but it didn’t capture the full meaning.”
Vaidya also said it is important to bring international students together, especially at a small and rural campus such as SUNY Plattsburgh.
“I feel like the international community in Plattsburgh, as compared to other universities, is quite small,” Vaidya said. “If you’re in the city, you can always rely on the local community. You will always have someone from your country in the city. But since we are in Plattsburgh, I don’t think that the international people have that support system outside the university, so I think that whenever there are these kinds of events on campus, it is especially important that they are informed and they are involved in it.”
Cedeno, Garcia and Vaidya all hope to see more events for International Education Week in years to come, even if Vaidya graduates before then.