The International Education Week that celebrates the various international cultures represented at Troy is set to begin Sunday, and it also brings about the yearly International Student Cultural Organization festival.
Darlene Schmurr-Stewart, dean of the international program, said that this week is very important to Troy because it allows everyone, including students and faculty, to learn more about other countries through educational activities, cultural fun, and study abroad opportunities.
The events for the week include an international soccer tournament, a presentation on Burma, an international Thanksgiving dinner, Muslim Journeys discussion series, International Women’s Forum meeting, a tent event on the main quad that will include information on study abroad opportunities and display artifacts from various nations, and finally, the ISCO festival.
The weeklong celebration, she hopes, will bring better understanding of international cultures. “There’s still that segregated feeling on campus,” Stewart said.
She said that since the doubling of the international student population at Troy in the early 2000s, she has felt a cultural and social gap between American and international students. She thinks this is because of the unfamiliarity, with which both types of students don’t necessarily feel comfortable.
“To experience the world view is both an opportunity and a challenge,” she said. “The challenge is to help assimilate some of these perspectives.”
She said that efforts to construct bonds between all cultures are ongoing, but she understands that “when something different comes, so does the pushback.”
“This gap is inevitable,” said Mai Tran, a senior biomedical sciences major from Da Nang, Vietnam. “This is mainly because there is such a difference in cultures.”
Tran said that most international students want American friends, but it’s just more comfortable to associate with people from their own countries, as it gives them that “at-home-feeling” while they are so far away from home.
“We just have so much more in common than we think,” said Cesar Jauregui, a senior broadcast journalism major from Pell City and president of ISCO. “Maybe we are not doing enough of a good job to encourage people to get to know the international population.”
“The culture shock itself is a major challenge,” said Gui Rampon, a senior global business and marketing major from Caxias do Sul, Brazil. “It is hard to get adapted into a culture where society values and ways of living differ so much from the place you grew up at. It really comes down to the individual and how open he or she is to a completely new perspective.”
Rampon said that domestic students should understand the value that international students bring to the Troy campus and the city of Troy. “Most people just don’t think they can learn a lot from having an international friend,” Rampon said.
“But international students are reaching out,” Tran said. “The gap is getting smaller, though.”
With activities that concentrate on allowing everyone to understand different cultures, Stewart said that she hopes next week’s events and the continuing efforts of the international program help bridge some of that estrangement.
“This week is a natural focus on international education amongst U.S. colleges and higher learning,” Stewart said.
“This is a chance for the international campus to be put out there for everyone to see,” Tran said. “So, of course International Education Week is important for Troy.”
With a week full of presentations and displays, the international department has created a culmination of cultural events.
“The week places emphasis on academics, study abroad and cultural immersion,” Stewart said. “This whole week is intended to bring into focus what Troy University has brought to the table about the world.”
The ISCO festival will be a display of various foods and cultural acts from around the world.
“As the president of ISCO, I feel that it’s just a great way to show Troy who international students are,” Jauregui said. “We have people from, literally, everywhere in the world.”
Jauregui also said that this year, there will be five continents represented in the food choices, while there were only four at last year’s ISCO festival.
“This is the opportunity to show to domestic students some of our country’s culture and the attempt to integrate them a little more into their college experience,” Rampon said.
Jauregui said that members of ISCO will be selling tickets to the festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Trojan Center on Thursday and Friday, but that those interested in attending should get their tickets soon, as they have sold out quickly in the past.