The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

International Education Week sparks global awareness, cultural diversity



By Justin Rodriguez

Students will gather Nov. 17-21 for the 15th annual International Education Week (IEW) to honor their homeland and cultural roots. The week-long cultural event will focus on Middle Eastern culture, an opportunity for students at Texas A&M University-San Antonio to celebrate the many countries significant to them.

International education raises awareness, not only in our country, but at our school, said Sylvia Medel, director of student rights & responsibilities and international affairs.

International Education Week events, sponsored by the office of international affairs, begin Nov. 17 with “A Day at the Cinema,” movie screenings in Room 219 of the Central Academic Building. Students are invited to watch movies from several regions of the world including Japan, India and China, and enjoy regional foods such as tea and biscuits. “Slumdog Millionaire,” one of the featured movies, begins at 12:30 p.m.

On Nov. 18, students will present aspects of their culture, including heritage and daily life in the Middle East. Student speakers from Syria, Iraq and Palestine will present in the Vista Room, located on the fourth floor of the central academic building.

“I have a message to deliver,” said Banan Ali, a student presenter featuring in the speaker series, Celebrating My Homeland, the Middle East.

Ali hopes to deliver the good things about her country, she said. “It’s hard because I have friends and family over there.” Ali described the difficulty of watching the news from her U.S. home because of the current political scene in the Middle East.

Ali, who came to the United States four years ago, defined many cultural differences between the U.S. and Iraq such as language, culture, and religion. “(There are) not a lot of students from Iraq, it’s a huge opportunity to be here,” she said.

Ali’s Middle Eastern traditions are something she would like to keep when she gets married. Ninety-five percent of the time, families connect during eating hours. “We will wait for you to eat,” she said, elaborating that if one family member is missing the entire family will wait until he, or she, arrives.

After breakfast and lunch, it’s common for Middle Eastern families to gather and sip Arabic coffee. “Family is something very important…parents feel like the relationship (with family members) is made stronger during that time,” Ali said. She added that the mother is always the family member with the highest priority. “We put the responsibility on them,” she said.

Ali would like to see some Middle Eastern traditions applied to the U.S., specifically cherishing the time families spend together. In traditional Middle Eastern culture people do not shake hands like in America. “We may hug, say ‘hi, and ask how are you?’” mentioned Ali.

Medel said there are 28 countries represented at the university; the highest percentage of those countries represented include Mexico, India and Nigeria.

Notable foods like baba ganoush, hummus and falafel are likely to be featured in relation to the origin of students’ home countries like Palestine.

A study abroad information session incorporates the benefits of combining a trip with the university curriculum. The purpose of covering such information during International Education Week is, “(to) let students know what opportunities are available with respect to study abroad,” said Dr. Edward Westermann, associate professor of history.

Students are allowed to use study abroad as credit even if they are not enrolled in a designated program. Various programs such as bilingual education allow for study abroad trips, however, students of any program can pursue study abroad for course credit. Any college faculty can propose a study abroad program, said Westermann.

During a typical trip, students can visit other universities, such as those in Málaga, Spain, and see firsthand what educational techniques they employ, Westermann added.

International Education Week events

  • A Day at the Cinema, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 17 in Room 219 of the central academic.
  • Celebrating My Homeland, the Middle East, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Vista Room of the central academic.
  • Study Abroad Information Session, 1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Nov. 19 in Room 128 of Senator Frank L. Madla Building.

About the Author

Justin Rodriguez
Justin Rodriguez is a senior communications major minoring in business. He currently serves as Special Projects Director for a local non-profit soccer club. Justin is a 2009 graduate of International School of the Americas in San Antonio. He plans to open a public relations firm as well as a private soccer clinic.

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