Seventh International Education Week Begins Today

IEW activities will promote study abroad opportunities and promote the value of international learning.

UC Irvine will kick off its seventh International Education Week (IEW) today with a series of events that celebrate and highlight international education and exchange opportunities. Students will be able to attend and participate in events that promote international awareness and communication with the international students on campus.

IEW is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Education, beginning in 2000, to recognize the global exchange environment between the United States and other countries.

The U.S. Senate declared 2006 the “Year of Study Abroad” and called on schools, businesses and government programs to promote and expand study abroad opportunities, as well as increase student understanding about different cultures and languages.

IEW at UCI originally began with three units — the Study Abroad Center (SAC), Summer Session and the International Center. As other organizations and clubs joined in the last seven years, these three rotated chairing IEW.
Marcella Khelif, Associate Director at the Study Abroad Center, has a poster of the 2006 “Year of Study Abroad” in her office. As she prepares to chair her third IEW in seven years, Khelif says she has seen several changes in not only how IEW is run, but also in the students themselves.

“We’ve seen a lot of emphasis on study abroad related things, but not as much value of having international students on our campus,” she said.
Incorporating student groups and having students define what they want to happen during IEW is important, Khelif said, identifying what they enjoy, what is fun and interesting for them.
TedxUCIrvine will feature three speakers on “The Pursuit of a Global Perspective” Tuesday evening from Semester at Sea, the Olive Tree Initiative and a UCI World Nomad.
The International and Global Studies Club will be coordinating an IEW graffiti board, which will provide information on important international issues while allowing students to write down their favorite places to go and answer trivia questions.

Each day, the board will be hosted by a different student organization to draw attention to their own organizations and international topics.
Offices that are involved with IEW include University Extension International Programs and the ARC, which will provide free Tai Chi lessons and sushi hand-rolling lessons.
The International Village in Arroyo Vista, which features integrated housing for international and local students, will have an information booth during IEW regarding possible housing opportunities.
The International Studies Public Forum will highlight UCI student organizations that have done work overseas, including the Olive Tree Initiative, Anteaters Medicine Abroad and Global Brigades.

Khelif came to UCI 23 years ago, and she noticed the then-lack of international educational opportunities for students, along with a culture that did not really consider studying abroad.
“When I came here in 1989, there was no major that was related to anything international and the course offerings related to that were very slim,” she said.
“We had a very local student body and they were not as venturesome in the first place. At the same time … their parents were immigrants. So you have a situation where the parents already made an effort to come here, so the idea of their kids going somewhere else wasn’t at the top of their minds.”

Khelif said her challenges included increasing interest in being internationally aware, and once the international studies major opened, the major became popular very fast. Student organizations like the Olive Tree Initiative that focus on international issues also contributed to the shift in perspective.

The admittance of international students also has highlighted a need to incorporate them into campus culture.
“It’s apparent that international students are here and that they need to be helped in different ways,” she said.

The International Village, Khelif said, is an explicit depiction of a vision with both local and international students living together.
The Village faced permanent closure of its four houses last year, but due to lobbying, the community left two houses for the Village.

“I would like to see in all aspects of the campus community the value of having international students here and a diverse, local community are able to share with one another. That richness can be brought out in an academic, housing and co-curricular setting.”