By Kerry Kong
Want a weekend escape but lack the cash? Can't decide where to study abroad? There's no better time to indulge your travel bug and connect with world cultures from the comfort of home.
Starting Saturday, May 9, and running through Sunday, May 17, Bobcats and community members alike will have the opportunity to experience cultures across the globe through Ohio University's annual International Week festivities.
This year's theme -- Global Roots: Digging Deep and Branching Out -- encourages involvement in novel international experiences by branching out into different cultures, according to Amanda Yusko, an event organizer and international student adviser with the university's International Student and Faculty Services office.
For some, such as junior specialized studies major James Wamsley, ample opportunities for digging in and branching out inspired the decision to attend Ohio University.
Wamsley has been quick to capitalize on these opportunities. Since enrolling in 2007, he spent three weeks in Thailand with the Global Leadership Center and six weeks studying abroad in Spain, a trip organized through the Office of Education Abroad.
According to Wamsley, International Week complements Athens' "international-minded vibe" and the college's "pluralism" by extending international experiences to all.
"Students who aren't as involved as I am generally get a chance to experience everything that I experienced and things that I don't think they experience through the other parts of the year," he said.
This year, International Week features keynote speaker Alina Fernandez, the daughter of Fidel Castro and the author of "Castro's Daughter: An Exile's Memoir of Cuba." Fernandez will describe her first-hand experience with her father and share anecdotes at 7 p.m. on May 11 at Baker Ballroom.
For the first time in its history, International Week will include Global Runway, a fashion show that showcases traditional and modern fashions around the world. The event will take place at 7 p.m. at Baker Ballroom on May 12.
A university World Cup soccer tournament will frame International Week, with matches scheduled for May 10 and May 17 on the South Green Soccer Fields. Teams will be based on participants' continent of origin.
As is tradition, the week's events will culminate with the International Street Fair. The fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 16, on Court Street between Union and East Carpenter. Visitors will have a chance to sample food and buy crafts and jewelry sold by 38 groups of international students on campus. Dance and music performances also will take place.
"I had never been exposed to anything like that before," said junior women's and gender studies major India Pierce, reflecting on her first International Street Fair. "Being able to go and see so many different cultures and attend different programs that go on was really interesting to me. It's really eye-opening to see the customs and the originality of other cultures."
Pierce had never traveled outside the U.S. prior to arriving at Ohio University. She will take her first step on foreign soil this summer while researching in South Africa -- a trip that was inspired partly by one-on-one conversations with international students at a past street fair.
"It's important to know the other cultures of the world," Pierce said. "(When I arrived at Ohio University), I couldn't see past my community, see past America. But now... I understand the importance of international relationships -- not only my personal relationships with people, but as a country."
Event organizers did not have to look far to find cultural expertise for this year's International Week.
Currently, there are more than 1,400 international students representing 107 countries in both undergraduate and graduate programs at Ohio University. As of November 2008, Ohio University had the third-highest number of foreign students among all academic institutes in Ohio, according to the Institute of International Education's report on international educational exchange.
Here is a preview of the week's events:
- "Fidel Castro: Big Man, Small Island" will be shown at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 10, at the Front Room Campus Coffeehouse in Baker University Center. The documentary showcases Cuba's former Head of State, a position which Castro held for nearly five decades. The film presents Castro's biography, from his days as a political activist through the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis and into the 21st century.
- A Taste of Study Abroad will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, at Grover Center. Sponsored by the Office of Education Abroad, the event provides a chance to experience different cultures by sampling food from more than 20 countries while learning about study abroad programs.
- The International Student Union Talent Show will take place from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at the Baker University Center Theatre. International students will entertain students, faculty and community members with cultural or modern performances.
- The 4th Annual Bob Marley Day will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, May 15, on the Baker Center Patio. Caribbean food, crafts and music will offer a way to experience vibrant Caribbean culture without worrying about air fare and hotel fees.
For the full event schedule and more information, visit www.ohio.edu/internationalweek.
Updated May 7, 2009.