Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges – North Iowa

Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges – North Iowa

Over 60 countries, over 120 languages, and 160 students. From Bangladesh to Pakistan, UNI’s international student community will have the opportunity to showcase their country and culture during the annual International Education Week (IEW) from Monday, November 13 to Friday, November 17.

IEW is committed to celebrating international education across UNI’s campuses, which includes international students, faculty, faculty, and international departments implementing degrees and programs that address global perspectives.

Ava Dietrich, student services coordinator in the Office of International Engagement (OIE), said this week allows people to expand their worldview by learning about different cultures and countries.

“It’s absolutely amazing what students bring from their countries,” Dietrich said. “The traditional dress they display, the foods they share, where are you going to get that experience? Especially in a small town in Iowa or even in the Midwest.”

Umas Nangavulan, a member of the OIE admissions team and a former international student from Taiwan, stressed the importance of learning about different cultures through OIE and IEW.

“Having this community here is just to understand people better, but also to break down walls and build bridges. The world is really turbulent right now, so it’s important to get to know people from different perspectives.”

OIE will be hosting several events throughout next week, some highlights can be found below. The full schedule of events can be found at

Throughout the week, international cuisine will be served at Piazza and Rialto. The Rod Library will feature international authors and works of art from more than 50 countries.

Monday, November 13: Open minds, open doors

IEW will begin its celebration by encouraging the campus community to wear their cultural attire. OIE will host an international photo booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m

After you visit the photo booth, visit a faculty panel from 2-3pm in Maucker Union’s Elm Room where they discuss international events and how they affect us here at Iowa.

St. Stephen’s Catholic Student Center will also host an intercultural potluck from 6 to 8 p.m., and everyone is encouraged to bring a snack or favorite dish to share. Dietrich encouraged Midwestern students to bring an iconic Midwestern dish to the dinner table, such as blueberry casserole or marshmallow fluff, in order to introduce international students to classic Iowa dishes.

Even if local students are hesitant to connect with international students, Nanjavulan hopes the students will be willing to chat.

“You can talk to us, you know, we don’t bite. We can present our culture because we’re not just here to immerse ourselves in American culture, but we also want to say, ‘Hey, this is something about our culture, too.’

Tuesday, November 14: Get to know our international community

Join UNI International alumni living across the United States and the world as they discuss opportunities after graduation, and how UNI has helped shape their personal and professional lives. This event will be held via Zoom from 10 to 11 a.m

You can visit the Hall of Flags in the by Curris Business Building from 11am to 2pm to visit the International Business Student Club’s snack and dessert bar, which serves cuisine from around the world. Learn more about the Hall of Flags, while chatting with current international students.

Dietrich is particularly looking forward to the event, saying: “They offer free food from all over the world, so where can you go wrong? There will also be photo ops and discussions about culture and business.”

One of the most popular events hosted by OIE, Taste of Culture, will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the Maucker Halls. Enjoy trying and exploring foods from over 50 countries around the world while learning more about different languages, cultures and cuisines. Last year more than 300 participants came to the event.

“Everyone is proud of their culture and shares the story they have,” Nangavulan said. “They don’t necessarily have to represent the entire country, but their culture. Then when you actually talk to someone from that region, or that country, or that religion, you learn more deeply about their experiences.”

Wednesday, November 15: Arts and Music

As part of the IEW program, renew or apply for your passport at the Study Abroad Center at 103 East Bartlett from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Want to try your hand at creating Korean lotus lanterns? OIE teamed up with the Hearst Center for the Arts this year to bring world-class art and artists to UNI’s campus. The Korean Lotus Lantern Making Workshop will be held from 11am to 1pm in Maucker Union Room 109P.

Thursday 16 November: International at home

Check out the many student organizations, community programs, and other organizations within Cedar Valley that help support the international community at UNI. Learn how to get involved in these organizations and the international community by visiting Maker Consortium from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m

To end the day, OIE Cooperative Campus Ministries and ThreeHouse will host a Thanksgiving dinner to honor partners, volunteers, collaborators and students. An RSVP is required for this event.

Friday 17 November

Finally, to round out the week, join OIE as they reflect on the week over some morning coffee and donuts from 9-11 a.m. on the arena level of Maucker Union.

Beyond IEW, Dietrich hopes students will connect and become involved in UNI’s international student programs.

“Just getting involved is the most important thing,” Dietrich said. “No matter how small, making this effort means a lot. There are also student organizations all over campus that international students participate in. There are the International Student Promoters, the International Student Association, and we have all the multicultural organizations that CME hosts, like the Consortium Asian Students, African Students Union, Indigenous Students Union. Muslim Students Association.”

She continued: “Besides the international community, diversity is not necessarily difficult to find on campus. You just have to search for it. “It may not be huge, but it’s here.”

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