Maria M. Silva, Special Assignment Reporter
The Office of International Education (OIE) has recently celebrated International Education Week with several events that took place on Tuesday, Nov. 13, and Wednesday, Nov. 14, in hopes of encouraging local students to study abroad and learn more about current international students at Utica College.
International Education Week is observed around the country as a way to highlight the learning experiences associated with studying abroad, and it also serves as a way for international students to celebrate their culture and heritage and to share it with others.
Stacy Phelps, office manager for the OIE, thinks that an event like Nov. 13’s country fair, which gave information about the various countries represented by current international students on campus, served both local and international students.
Among the different countries that were showcased during the Country Fair were Canada, Vietnam, Finland, Spain, Japan, India, Hong Kong, Ireland, France or the United Kingdom.
“Students were able to see if they should study abroad or not, which helped them decide,” Phelps said. “But they also could get a glimpse of where our international students are from and how life is different in other countries.”
On Nov. 14, current international students participated in the yearly flag ceremony in Strebel. Students from Canada, Ireland, Ghana, China, Malaysia, Finland and Spain walked in a line, bearing their country’s flag, towards Strebel lounge. Students then handed their flag to President Laura Casamento.
As a former study-abroad student, Phelps explained that studying in another country does not bring an evident change of the personna, but “it’s more of an inner change.”
“Maybe you thought you couldn’t do something by yourself, but studying abroad makes you realize how independent you have become,” Phelps said. “It shows you how to live.”
Katie Ortiz was one of the study-abroad students that has benefitted from the experience of studying in Spain during the 2018 spring semester.
Since her experience, Ortiz, a junior, said she has been more open-minded to learning about new things that caught her interest in Spain, such as self-teaching books and environmental issues.
“Studying abroad benefits students by teaching them about different nations and cultures and providing them with travel opportunities,” Ortiz said.
As a piece of advice for prospective study-abroad students, Ortiz recommended “finishing core classes at UC, then taking electives abroad.”
Senior Calvin Mends, originally from Ghana, has had a similar experience as Ortiz during his time in the United States.
“I have been here for four years, and I have changed a lot,” Mends said. “I’ve learned about different cultures and made friends from different places and backgrounds.”
Mends explained how studying far away from his home country has helped him appreciate different cultures.
“Studying abroad has made me realize how different each country is, and I’ve been able to understand people and relate to them,” he said. “I feel like I’ve changed so much, and this has been such a great experience so far.”
Mends, an international relations major, said that studying abroad also helps American students “because they are going to learn more about different countries, backgrounds and cultures and how different they are.”
Phelps, a former study-abroad student herself, thinks that even though students may not decide to go study in another country “they are still exposed to international education by having international students on campus, who bring diversity to the student body.”
“Local students can benefit by even just talking to them and having a simple conversation and just learning something new,” Phelps said. “Everyone learns from each other.”