In order to help students across the country prepare to live, work and compete in a global economy, International Education Week was established by a joint initiative by the U.S. Departments of State and Education in 2000. It is celebrated in more than 100 countries today - last week's International Fair at Buena Vista University marked the first time the community has been represented in the worldwide recognition.
Carol Williams, Director of International Studies, says BVU plans to make a tradition of the celebration, and hopes to grow its fair each year.
Williams said the university has held events before to explore the cultures of its various students, but this is the biggest effort yet to encourage international students to represent the countries they come from for others to see.
Students from across the globe came together to share music, dance, food, traditions and dress; celebrating international education and exchange worldwide. "I hope they (BVU students) will take away a desire to participate globally themselves," Williams says. "I hope to help get the community involved in the exciting things the international students bring to campus."
MEET GEORGIA AND ANNA
Georgia Obiri, from Ghana in West Africa, came to Storm Lake in August 2008 to start her college career at BVU. As people at the fair visited their booth, she and partner Anna Annim, also of Ghana, enthusiastically spoke of the culture of their homeland. "It was an opportunity for us to tell other people about our country," Obiri says.
The girls wore colorful Kente cloth, a native fabric of Ghana, in colors typical of what they'd wear to church or a special outing.
Made of interwoven cloth strips, each color has a symbolic meaning often unique to a particular event or place. Ghana celebrated its 51st anniversary of independence this year - it was formerly known as the Gold Coast as a crown colony of Britain.
Items like gold, cocoa and manganese exports have been major sources of foreign exchange, the girls noted.
Obiri says she wanted to experience new things when she came to the United States and says she would encourage everyone to study abroad if they get a chance. She says she looks forward to sharing the experience she will have in the United States with her friends and family in Ghana.
She says although she was asked if she'd be willing to share her culture with others during the fair, she says she would have loved to do it anyway. Obiri says with the weather turning colder it has taken some getting used to. "It is always hot in my country," she says. Obiri says occasionally she'll run to Wal-Mart to buy something but misses her native food dishes from Ghana.
However, as she's experienced many different and new kinds of food in the U.S. she's developed a liking for mashed potatoes. Obiri was invited to spend Thanksgiving with her resident advisor. She says she also experienced Halloween for the first time in her life and enjoyed watching children come to the student's residence halls all dressed up. She says she also enjoyed going to her first NBA game and visiting the Mall of America in Minnesota. "It was an experience," she says.
Obiri says although her experience in the U.S. has been a good one it's also been a challenging one. She says sometimes it's harder to communicate with people because of her thick African accent. Coming to a new country has required her to meet many new people and making friends has been a little hard.
The biology major says after her four years of undergraduate education she would like to further her education and possibly go on to medical and dental school, she says she would like to establish a health care facility in Ghana.
Annim also came to BVU in August 2008 after her family moved to Maryland. Her father works as a diplomat at the Embassy of Ghana in the ministry of foreign affairs and was transferred to Washington D.C. Annin says that although she considers Ghana her home, she was born in Germany. "Because of my dad's job we've moved up and down," she says. "It's fun seeing different places, but I miss my family and friends."
Her family also spent some time in China. Annin moved to the United States from Accra, the capital city and most populated center in Ghana. She says she'll be having Thanksgiving with her RA and then she and Obiri will spend Christmas with her family in Maryland.
Annin says Ghana is a lively place to live and says there is always something going on or something to look at. There are a lot of parties and always music playing, she says. Annin is majoring in accounting and says she thinks she'd like to work at a bank. Annin says she found out about BVU when Carol Williams, Director of International Student Services, visited Ghana and met with her father during some conferences.
Annin enjoys being part of clubs at BVU, including Students of Diversified Population, Women of Color, African American Student Union, International Club and Multicultural Club. She also works at the Student Leadership Center.