International education week is usually buzzing with events hosted by the International club (I-club) in collaboration with multiple cultural clubs throughout the week. This year’s celebration will look a little different as it returns to its roots, bringing back the 50 year long tradition, International Night, open to the public on Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Quiet side of commons.
This will be the first time the event is held since COVID-19 shut down UP in March of 2019 — with International night being the first on-campus event canceled.
For this event, I-club put together a panel consisting of international students, students who have studied abroad, and students who are a part of cultural clubs on campus. During international night, they will talk about how they have been able to find community within their own international experiences while being at UP. Along with the panel, there will be three on-site raffles and Tanaka Katsu will be catering.
“We want to highlight the International student body as well as their international experiences” media coordinator, May-j Bui '24 said.
There will also be small tables to help facilitate discussions amongst smaller groups to share ideas and experiences with one another. Their main goal is to spark conversations and help connect international students with the rest of the UP community.
“The biggest misconception is that I-club is only for international students,” President of I-Club, Meghan Ho '23 said. “We really try to emphasize that everyone is welcome even if you are not an international student. It’s just another way to help promote international experiences and education.”
The tradition used to be held in the spring, but with the amount of events cultural clubs put on during that time, they wanted to re-evaluate the space and time they were taking up.
“It was like competing for time and space in the spring opposed to highlighting other student clubs and what was going on,” co-advisor, Rebecca Seibert said. “So there were several conversations around how we can better serve all the students at UP and highlight what's unique and special about the International Club.”
By focusing their energy on one night, instead of putting together a string of events, I-club hopes that there will be an emphasis on building connections with meaningful dialogue.
Vice President of I-Club, Faith Scheenstra '24, is proud that the club can act as a facilitator to help International students integrate into the UP community by connecting them to people with similar interests and curiosities. She regularly attends Tea Time, a once a week International Student Services (ISS) program that lets students unwind with one another over a spot of tea.
“It’s honestly the highlight of the week,” Scheenstra said. “We don't really talk about quote on quote international topics, we just like to catch up over a cup of tea and it's really on the topic of community.”
Senior Tiffany Ng acts as the campus connector for ISS and has been designing and implementing programming for students to attend. Some I-club members go to the event to support and meet others who are wanting to find belonging.
“I find myself really enjoying that time together,” Scheenstra said. “... I really encourage other non international students to come.”
If students are wanting to learn more, I-club encourages them to come to more of their events such as Travelers Lunch, which started last year and occurs every first Wednesday of the month.
“Travelers lunch is a collaboration between ISS and International Club,” Seibert said. “... we have tables under flags where anyone can come and sit [along with] ‘table talkers’ people can scan into, either there or from any table in the commons, that have a themed cultural line of questioning to get people thinking about different topics each time.”
I-club has been very active in trying to get more members to join and opening up to the rest of the community. Ho said the main reason why she felt included as a student during COVID had a lot to do with the fact that the club still held events and fostered a sense of belonging during times of isolation.
“The officers at the time were so in touch with planning events and trying to create online experiences,” Ho said. “And last year when we were finally able to return to in-person events, I think we’ve done really well with our event turnouts.”
Officers this year have been ambitious with their goals and planning and are hoping to host a retreat sometime next semester for their club members. Along with the retreat, they want to try and create a buddy system for newer people in the club to make them feel a part of something bigger.
“It’s a way for club members to get to know each other on a more individual level,” events coordinator, Khoa Van '23, said.
Club meetings have been quite big this year, consisting up to around 80 people, according to Scheenstra.
“It's also a way for people to get to know each other outside of the club,” Van said. “The Cultural Buddies is more or less a program for what to do in between our meetings. It gives you more opportunities to bond.”
The club is always evolving and trying to think of ways to best serve the community and uplift those who don’t feel seen within the student body. ISS, study abroad programs and collaboration with clubs help promote their growth as a club and community, and are always looking for ways they can improve.
“I think something that's really important to keep in mind is being open to feedback from everyone because our big focus is on everyone.” Scheenstra said. “Whenever we have events I always like to ask people who attend, ‘What did you think of it? What are things that you really enjoyed [or didn’t enjoy].’”
If students want to get involved with the club, they can follow along on their Instagram or attend their weekly and monthly events.
Brie Haro is the Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.