UNCG celebrated its annual International Education Week, a national initiative by the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education, with a series of events to celebrate diversity and internationalization on campus. This year’s IEW took place from November 12-16. With over 90 countries represented at UNCG, students were able to speak and learn from one another about opportunities to go abroad and develop intercultural competence.

Gabrielle Morris

IPC kicked off its IEW festivities in on Monday, November 12 in the EUC Commons. The prominent display of this year’s International Photo Contest winners were some of the first items to be noticed. Winner of the “Spartan Spirit Abroad” category, Gabrielle Morris (pictured here), provided some insight on her choice to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa: “I was inspired to go to Cape Town after watching Reggie Yates’ documentary Outside Man. I fell in love with the location while watching, and did some more research. I loved it so much that I plan on going back to work there.”

Passersby also had the chance to interact with a large map that was on display in the EUC Commons. The map was covered by the end of the day with sticky notes of students’ names and ultimate travel destinations. with many students about why they chose the places they did. In discussing with students about how they made their selections, I learned that their choices were often influenced based on ease of travel to other countries, if English is commonly spoken, or inspiration from mainstream media. Some students, however, chose their destinations with future goals in mind: “I speak Spanish, French, and some German. I want to move abroad and work as a fashion buyer for a high end company and put all of my languages to use,” said senior Alexandra Ayala. “I chose France because I love French culture and the language intrigues me.”

Fortunately enough, those with dreams of international employment, had the opportunity to attend another IEW featured event, “Networking Gone Global” on Tuesday, November 13. As a collaboration between UNCG’s Bryan School of Business and Economics, IPC, and the Global Opportunities Center, “Networking Gone Global” offered students the chance to talk with a panel of practicing professionals on how to increase their chances of working overseas. Panelists Tom Robinson, Vivian Poteat, Estela Molini, and Carlos Colmenarez from the District Export Council offered advice on how to get started. Speaking from their own experiences and how they overcame hardships that eventually resulted in their success, attendees were encouraged by the panelists to network as much as possible to achieve their dreams of living internationally. For students interested in working abroad, here are their key pieces of advice:

  • “Business is about people. Show future employers how you can help their business instead of taking away by getting involved with things that show not only how motivated you are, but how it relates to your environment. Culture is the key ingredient to making international deals, and making things happen.” -Tom Robinson
  • “It’s all about having experience. That goes a long way. Think about how to conduct yourself, but don’t compare yourself to others. It is your own story to tell and everyone is different.”- Estela Molini
  • “Take initiative! Speaking and learning languages are your key to survival. That gives you a skill set that is hard to find. Try to do a little bit of everything in business, internships are a great way to experience everything. Even if you start out small, you’re internal, and you have an opportunity to grow within the company.” -Vivian Poteat
  • “Don’t be afraid. What makes us different makes us stronger. To be able to listen is a quality, and you learn more from people listening than talking. I had to prove myself since all of my experience was overseas, but I learned to work harder and smarter. Proving yourself and relying on others is how you can make it.”- Carlos Colmenarez
Panelists (left to right) Vivian Poteat, Carlos Colmenarez, Estela Molini, Tom Robinson)

Ending the week with a festive bang, IEW concluded with a celebration of Diwali, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights. Hosted by YUVA with contributions from the International Programs Center, UNCG students got a glimpse into how the biggest and brightest festival in India is celebrated. “Diwali is the biggest Hindu festival, it’s like our Thanksgiving. We get to meet with all of our family and exchange gifts,” said organizers Kirit Bansal and Aarzoo Ahuja.

The celebration included performances by dancers, singers, and musicians. Attendees got to enjoy authentic food and ended the evening with a Bollywood dance party. “Having events like this is important, I wish we could have more! It’s such a great way to break down cultural barriers and gives us a chance to support our friends of different cultures,” said Hagir Elmadih.

IPC is grateful for the support of faculty, staff, students and community partners who made IEW a success yet again. To learn more about IEW efforts across the U.S., please visit https://iew.state.gov/. To get more information on studying abroad or on-campus volunteering opportunities at IPC, please visit https://studyabroad.uncg.edu/ or call 336-334-5404 to make an appointment.

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