Spotlight on global awareness

By Katy Nielsen

A Spanish Flamenco dancer in a red dress, sizzling Eastern European pierogi, powdered, sugar-coated pastries, a Japanese calligrapher and a belly dancer set the stage on Nov. 16 for the International Fair in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave. It was part of International Education Week, which took place from Nov. 15 to 19.

In its 10th year, International Education Week was celebrated in more than 100 countries and promotes awareness of diversity and the benefits of getting an international education.

The Columbia International Education Week highlighted different cultures in an increasingly global world with free events, including multicultural dance performances, workshops about finding jobs overseas and information about traveling and studying abroad. There was also an international student mixer on Nov. 19.

“The goal of International Education Week is to raise awareness in the college about the international community,” said Gigi Posejpal, director of International Student Affairs.

According to the International Student Organization, Columbia has more than 269 foreign students from 51 countries.

“I want [students] to be aware of the really rich diversity that exists on our campus,” said Akiho Sugitatsu, senior marketing communication major and member of Columbia’s ISO.

According to Jennifer Brown, senior illustration major and president of ISO, it is important to have general knowledge of what is going on in the world outside your culture and community.

“I feel you can really expand as a person when you get to know other cultures,” Brown said.

Chris Greiner, director of International Programs in the Office of Academic Initiatives and International Programs,  said it is critical for students who study media, art and communications to develop a global understanding of their industries before they graduate.

“If you were to leave without that knowledge, you would be at a disadvantage,” Greiner said.

He said the media, art and communication world is, in a sense, rapidly shrinking as people become more connected.

When students study abroad, they expand their knowledge, change their ideas, create new forms of self-expression and subsequently cultivate different attitudes toward their studies, Greiner said.

“Study abroad is the solid beginning of an international understanding of [a student’s] career,” he said. According to Greiner it can be cheaper to stay in a foreign country than to live and attend school in Chicago.

Sought-after study-abroad cities like London, Paris, Milan and Tokyo tend to be more expensive, while less known destinations are more affordable.

“Think about Central America and Central and East Europe, think about Africa,” Greiner said. “Many of those places are

less expensive.”

Students who study abroad share unique experiences, which are important for growing up, said Emily Piga, group sales manager for Chicago’s Hostelling International, a nonprofit organization with more than 4,000 hostels worldwide. Piga had a booth at Columbia’s International Fair.

“It’s always better to be aware of different lifestyles and different cultures,” she said.

Sugitatsu hopes International Education Week can help people see there is a world beyond the United States.

“The whole idea is to celebrate different cultures, and hopefully that will inspire [students] to want to travel, learn another language and be global citizens.”