“As international students we go through a lot of hardships,” Ng said. Being able to talk with faculty members who have “been there, done that” is a wonderful opportunity, she said. “Behind their successful stories, they have a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
Photos by Andika Mulia.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s International Education Week (IEW) is over for this year, but not forgotten.
“This one was by far, bar none, the most ambitious IEW program I’ve ever seen,” said Dan Maher, co-advisor of the event committee along with Kelsey Hawthorne of the WSU International Center.
The committee, largely comprised of the International Students’ Council (ISC), organized almost two dozen events with other WSU students.
The week included an opportunity for international students to talk with international faculty; a series of monologues featuring different perspectives on racism; language workshops including Italian, Arabic and Thai; a basketball tournament; international cuisine night and more.
The keynote speaker was Arn Chorn-Pond, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who has become an international activist for human rights.
“They did it all by themselves,” Maher said. “That’s the coolest part of it.”
Maher, who coordinates WSU’s student involvement and leadership development programs, said committee members, both domestic and international, gained experience working with budgets, in committees, with multicultural expectations and across campus.
“When they see this involvement piece, and how much fun it is, that’s what draws them,” Maher said. “But they don’t have any idea how much work it is.”
This year, he said, when that realization hit, the students dug in and kept going.
And though there were hiccups along the way, “When it was all said and done, they were happy and it was an incredible learning opportunity.”
IEW committee chair Ka Yan (Clare) Tang said her vision for the week was to “embrace what we have on this campus and how diverse we are.”
The committee reached out to student groups across campus in an effort to plan programs that would help the entire community become more globally aware, she said.
About 40 students were involved in weekly planning sessions, she said, but when she was printing up certificates of appreciation last week she was amazed to discover that more than 100 students volunteered their time and talents.
Tang, a second semester senior majoring in microbiology, said she’s a strong advocate for getting involved in campus events because that’s how you create a sense of belonging.
“The most important thing is having a sense of belonging at the place where you live,” she said. Her philosophy is “always gets involved.”
Yee Hiu (Crystal) Ng chaired the committee that organized International Professionals’ Sharing Night, an evening for international students to meet with WSU faculty to talk about the rewards and challenges of studying and working at a foreign university.
Participating faculty members included Prema Arasu, vice provost and associate vice president for International Programs; Yogendra Gupta, Regents Professor and director of the Institute for Shock Physics; Dogan Gursoy, Taco Bell Distinguished Professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management; Christina geng-quig Chi, assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management; Patriya Tansuhaj, professor of marketing and IBUS Fellow; and Gene Lai, Safeco Distinguished Professor of Insurance.
Another new event this year was International Monologues. The brainchild of ISC president Shing Lan (Gina) Ong, the idea was to create a series of monologues based on diverse experiences of racism.
Ong and her committee distributed more than 100 surveys to both domestic and international students to gather their stories of discrimination.
The stories were compelling; but moving from the surveys to a dramatic performance was daunting until the committee hired two students to create the script and direct the production. Jesse Mu-En Shao wrote the script and Nate Patterson directed the production with WSU student actors. The Japan Club, WSU Stage and ISC hosted the event.
At the end of the performance the audience in the CUB auditorium gave the students much positive feedback. Some international students have said they feel domestic students understand them better after this presentation.
Hawthorne, director of the International Center, said students were passionate about creating a memorable IEW week, and they succeeded.
“If the students don’t believe in it, the event won’t turn out well,” she said, “and this year the students really believed.”