Celebrating International Education Week: The university’s take on culture, community and diversity

Students rushed into Piedmont Central the week of Nov. 18 to taste and savor international food hosted by Panther Dining. From Monday to Thursday, students experimented with food from across the world, with international menus prepared by Georgia State chefs. Cuisine ranged from Mexico City to Beijing and New Delhi to Paris.

This was all possible thanks to the joint initiatives between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education to celebrate global education and exchange with a yearly International Education Week across the nation. 

Although each was different, they took place across all Georgia State campuses throughout the week. A language exposition was available for Dunwoody students, international music and dance performances were given at the Newton campus and an informative talk about diplomatic relations took place at the Decatur campus.

For the Atlanta campus, the “Go-Global 360” event, which is co-hosted by the School of Public Health, the Atlanta Global Institute and Creative Media Industries Institute, was a crowd favorite. 

There, students experienced traveling abroad through virtual reality goggles and, after participating in the experience, were able to take home a free pair of VR goggles accompanied with the YouTube link to the footage seen in the simulation. 

But according to Iris Eben, the person in charge of IEW, the event that embodied what the week was all about was the talent show: “Celebrating the world of talent and togetherness.” It featured international students from the Intensive English Program and exchange students from the College of Arts and Sciences.  

Despite the fact that the Downtown campus had a greater number of events than every other campus, there were actually fewer events available this year. Eben decided that slimming down programming would make it easier to plan the events. 

By attending these events, Eben hopes students could engage, learn and celebrate the diversity of culture that Georgia State has to offer. 

Homma Rafi, who managed IEW for five years prior to Eben, explained that IEW’s success each year is because “Georgia State has consistently produced the most robust IEW campaign in the state of Georgia.”

“Understanding the global context behind why and how people express and celebrate their culture is an important component of raising cultural competency,” Eben said. 

To Eben, as her first year directing IEW, a Georgia State graduate and first-generation U.S citizen raised by Cameroonian immigrants, the celebration of diversity and culture means a lot to her. She said she has seen first-hand benefits, personal and professional, that come from engaging with different cultures. 

“Georgia State wouldn’t be Georgia State without our incredible diversity. It’s part of our community DNA,” Eben said. “It’s what many students praise about attending this university. No matter what background they come from, they feel at home here.”