The U Goes Global in Celebration of International Education Week


Photo courtesy of Cecily Sakrison, marketing manager of the Office for Global Engagement at the U.

By Abhilasha Khatri, Investigative Editor


As a home to almost 3,000 international students, a student body that represents 208 countries and global programs in 43 countries, the University of Utah is a place for students looking for international exposure. 

The U also participates in International Education Week, celebrated on campuses nationwide from Nov. 15-19, 2021. The week is a joint initiative by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, its goal being to promote programs that facilitate international education and exchange. 

Cecily Sakrison, marketing director for the U’s Office of Global Engagement which is tasked with preparation of all of the week’s festivities, said their goal with the week is to provide students with exposure to the many different options available on campus to engage in global education. 

“Anything from learning abroad opportunities to foreign language scholarships, to faculty led trips, to our U Asia campus … these programs, of course, are happening year round, but it’s an opportunity for us to come together and really spotlight all of the programs in one place during one week,” Sakrison said. 

This year, IEW involved nearly 20 events across the Salt Lake City and U Asia campus. The week’s activities on the Salt Lake campus ranged from dance performances and film screenings to information sessions and panels where students could hear from alumni about their experiences learning abroad. 

Sakrison said planning the events for the week takes place several months in advance, discussed by a committee that involves various departments on campus. 

“We do have a committee that’s made up of several representatives from several offices on campus that tend to have a pretty international focus … we continue to grow it every year and find other corners of campus that want to get involved,” Sakrison said. “Each office is welcome to showcase what makes the most sense to them.”

One key feature of the annual celebration at the U is the international showcase, the closing event of the week that involves various international student organizations sharing their culture through fashion, dance, music and food.

“Before COVID, we did international night and it attracted hundreds of people, packed the Union, all of the different international clubs on campus would host booths and people would wear their traditional clothing and bring, you know, traditional snacks and food … there were performances and dances. And that was really the showcase piece of the week,” Sakrison said. 

This year, the international student showcase was limited, with multiple international student associations gathering in the Union ballroom to share more information with students about opportunities to get involved and participate in different events. 

Mike Park, president of the International Student Council and intern for the Office for Global Engagement, says they hope to put on the full event for students in the Spring semester, likely moving the event outdoors to accommodate the pandemic’s CDC guidelines. 

As an international student himself from the U Asia campus, Park has a unique perspective on international exposure, something he said he did not really obtain until moving to the U.S. 

“It’s just been really good to come here and see how diverse and global this community is,” Park said.  “Because in Korea, like sure, we have the Global Campus there, but the population there is pretty homogenous. It’s almost entirely Korean … but to come here and see really like you know, all these different student orgs has been really kind of eye opening.” 

For students from the U.S., Park said taking classes at the U Asia campus is a great opportunity to get immersed in a different culture. He said one of the biggest pluses of the program is that students pay the same tuition they would be paying in Utah to take classes in Korea.

In addition to providing seven undergraduate degrees that can be taken completely at the U Asia campus — communications, psychology, film & media arts, civil engineering, urban ecology, electrical engineering and computer engineering — students can also take miscellaneous general education classes.

Even without studying abroad, students can engage with global cultures in Utah just by tuning into student organizations on campus. 

Giselle Fagundes Draper, a senior at the U studying accounting and Latin American studies, is president of the Brazilian Club on campus. She says the club is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about Brazilian culture. 

“We did a film night in October … we are doing like an end of the year holiday meal … in the spring is usually when we have our huge event and partner up with the Italian club and the Spanish club … we’ll have Samba, food, we have some games and things like that. So usually we put on three to four events per semester,” Fagundes Draper said. 

Fagundes Draper also said she had been planning to study abroad herself in Latin America in 2020, but her plans were cut short due to COVID. 

Sakrison said the challenges that the Office of Global Engagement faced with facilitating experiences for students studying abroad and for international students studying at the Utah campus make this celebration even more meaningful, as it signifies the hopeful return of these opportunities. 

“It was very, very difficult to bring students back, logistically difficult and certainly emotionally difficult,” Sakrison said. “So we have been waiting patiently for the moment that it’s safe for us to, you know, send students out into the world again. We’ve accepted international students throughout the pandemic, that has been extremely challenging at times, and the hurdles that our international students have had to overcome in order to get here have been exceptional. So we are excited to celebrate the fact that they are here.” 

Sakrison hopes students make global experiences part of their time at the U, as they instill valuable skills. 

“We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and in order for students to truly understand it … we need to be able to see beyond our own borders and our own bubbles,” Sakrison said. “Of course, doing so makes you more competitive in the job market, but it also just makes you a more well rounded human being.” 


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