It’s been several weeks since International Programs decisions were released and students eagerly anticipate the glories their international experiences will bring. Images of glistening lakes and historic landmarks make their way into every daydreaming mind; empanadas schnitzel and gelato dance on the horizon.
But how much do students actually know about these foreign countries before signing up to spend one or two semesters living there? Aiming to fill in the gaps International Programs is participating in International Education Week
IEW was created by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Education. Pepperdine’s International Programs has spent one week once a year for the past three years promoting this event. This year’s focus has been on eliminating ignorance of foreign nations.
Assistant Director of Academics of International Programs Nichole Skelton is in charge of coordinating the projects that IP has scheduled for IEW this year. Skelton wishes to “celebrate the benefits of international education” through IEW.
“Our office is trying to raise awareness on certain issues we feel are of interest to students such as the rise of Christianity in China Skelton said.
Another focus of IEW is to gain a better understanding [of] the rich histories and backgrounds of the custodial and landscaping staff that we see everyday at Pepperdine Skelton said.
Aside from the regular flood of fliers, posters and Web site updates, the IP office sent out e-mails to targeted groups informing them of a photo competition. This contest asked students to submit 11-by-14 photos from anywhere outside the United States. The pictures were displayed outside the IP office where students could examine and vote for their favorite. Skelton sees this as an opportunity for students to gain awareness of other nations, as seeing these photos from around the world piques their interest in where the photos were taken.
Junior Richard Shaw was among those who submitted a photo for the competition wanting to share his overseas experience with other students.
Until you can experience the culture yourself it’s important to pick up whatever you can from people who know the culture firsthand Shaw said. It’s best to learn from people who have actually experienced these cultures.”
Skelton stressed the week’s educational value.
“Now more than ever it is vital to understand international relations and get out of your comfort zone to cross cultural boundaries she said. The more we learn about global issues and cultural affairs the more we’ll be able to be informed and compassionate citizens of the world.”
In order to provide opportunities for students to gain crucial understanding of other countries IEW includes events such as themed dinners in the Waves Cafe and a chance to share tea with an international student. During the tea students will listen to international students discuss growing up in a different country as well as their thoughts on the cultural norms and values of their home country as compared with America.
For several years Pepperdine has been ranked in the top 10 universities in the nation for the percentage of students participating in international programs. Dean of International Programs Charles Hall took advantage of IEW as a chance to “showcase the international programs we offer students and the importance of having an international experience for developing a broad knowledge of global issues.”
Hall strongly enforces the idea of alleviating misconceptions of other countries.”Our tendency is to believe that other cultures have little to offer us he stated. In reality the contributions and perspectives of other cultures contribute immensely to human understanding and cooperation.”
Hall also brought up the idea of encouraging students to give more consideration to studying in more eastern countries. In 2008 19 percent more Americans studied in China than in 2007. Although the majority of Pepperdine students flock to the European programs Hall stresses the idea that “transformation more likely comes from deliberately putting yourself in a place that will stretch and challenge your worldview.”
The biggest event of the week the Ten Thousand Villages Festival was held Wednesday Nov. 18. This festivity was advertised not just on campus but also in the Malibu community. At this event handicrafts from developing countries were sold to directly support the artisans who made them and their families. This festival also included an international photo gallery and tea with an international student. Also included was the rice challenge in which students were asked to eat only one cup of rice for a day in order to gain a better understanding of what many people in developing countries survive on.
To close off the week Director of International Student Services Rich Dawson will head the International Coffeehouse on Friday night 6-8 p.m. (“or until they kick us out as Dawson stated). This event outgrew its Sandbar location last year, so this year it will be held in the Caf. Present will be a smattering of student performances, including the Gospel Choir, Step Team and various student singers and musicians. On-campus clubs will bring in international cuisines for the audience to enjoy. During this mini-concert the IP office will announce the winner of the international photo contest.
The overall goal is appreciation for the diversity that we have here and the contributions that all cultures make to the place we call Pepperdine Dawson said. We love to celebrate excellence and diversity here and IEW does just that. Friday night in the Caf will highlight those things through music food and connections.”
Although more than 60 percent of Pepperdine students participate in an international program only 1 percent of all college students study abroad.
“Our students are quite fortunate to have these international opportunities Hall said. We are leading the way toward a future where international experiences are necessary to complete a college degree.”