International Education Week celebrates multiculturalism


Photo by Segyo Oh

Sunday night, the sounds of Swahili, Spanish, Chinese, Shona, Korean, Sotho and Indonesian filled the CFAC auditorium as students participated in the LOFT International Worship Night. The service was one of the many events held last week as a part of Calvin’s celebration of International Education Week.

International Education Week (IEW) is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education created to promote cross-cultural programs and celebrate international learning. IEW first began in the year 2000, and since then it has grown to be celebrated in over 100 countries around the world.

The intercultural student development center, off-campus programs, campus ministries and the political science department collaborate to bring IEW together at Calvin, focusing on celebrating the cultures of international students and encouraging students to go spend time overseas. Events such as IEW can help increase cultural competency across campus and bridge the gap between students of different cultural backgrounds here at Calvin.

IEW provided a unique opportunity not only for students to learn more about other cultures, but it also gave international students the chance to share their culture with others in a meaningful way.

“It’s really neat to watch majority students delight in the cultures of other people. Often times our international students don’t always have the opportunity to feel celebrated or accepted for their cultures, so then when we have these kinds of things they can see that they are accepted and part of the community,” shared Jane Bruin, assistant dean for international student development.

The International Worship Service centered on the theme “One in Christ,” emphasizing the unity we can find in Christ despite our cultural differences.

As the service incorporated cultures from around the world, Chaplain Mary Hulst shared, “It’s good to be reminded about these deep truths of the Christian faith: that we are one in Christ with people all over the world – with people right here who come from all over the world.”

Calvin’s celebration of IEW extended beyond just the International Worship Service at LOFT: many students wore international clothing last Friday as part of Wear Your World Day, and SAO hosted a viewing of Kubo and the Two Strings, a stop-motion-animated movie following the story of a Japanese boy searching for the truth about his missing father.

Last Friday evening, IEW held both World Food Fest and International Treasure to showcase cultures from around the world. World Food Fest was hosted on Commons Lawn by various cultural groups on campus, while the multicultural activities coordinators (MACs) in the residence halls hosted International Treasure, with each dorm giving out snacks and hosting activities from countries around the world.

For International Treasure, BHT represented Yemen, giving out Baklava and cards where students could practice writing in Arabic. Kaitlyn Kline, the MAC for BHT, shared the impact of the event:

“It was really neat to see the number of students that came into BHT and said thank you for representing a country in the Middle East. There was one student in particular that came in and said, ‘I’m from Palestine, and the Middle East has just never been represented. This is really special.’”

IEW provides an opportunity for students to see snapshots into other cultures and get a glimpse into other lifestyles, helping to unite the various groups represented at Calvin.

“It’s a really big step for our international community at Calvin to get to represent their country and share it with other people,” said sophomore Heather Milks. “The energy that everyone has for something as simple as snacks from a different culture is significant in bringing two cultures together.”