Weber State University students got a rare taste of several different cultures on Wednesday as part of the International Education Week.
“I think that Weber is really good at looking at diversity,” said International Student and Scholar Center administrative assistant Tiana Witkamp, “(WSU) wants to increase diversity here at the university, and they want to challenge people on what their ideas of diversity are.”
From Germany to Asia, various booths representing different countries were displayed in the Shepherd Union Building. Each country was represented with its specific foods, landmarks and banners to help raise awareness for international students.
“Events like this help highlight our international students, the culture they have to share with us, recognizing that they have some challenges that domestic students don’t have and to really highlight that the international students have so much to offer to the campus and community,” said Cliff Nowell, dean of International Programs & Services at WSU.
International Education Week is organized by the State Department and is celebrated on a global scale, according to Nowell. This year, Weber State hosted their event Nov. 17–19, with each day featuring a new cultural activity.
According to Nowell, there are nearly 400 international students in the WSU student body. He said that the university defines an international student as a student who is here on a student visa.
Shari Vaeding is an international student who came to WSU from Germany in May 2015 on a student visa. Now part of the International Student and Scholar Center, Vaeding’s mission is to facilitate cultural exchange on campus.
“I think (international) students want to be seen, but sometimes they feel like they are a minority here,” Vaeding said. “So, this week is great for them to just get out there and get to know the American students and get to connect with them.”
Although International Education Week is about bringing visibility to international students on campus, the Study Abroad Program made its own debut in hopes of encouraging Weber State students to go out and explore different cultures outside the United States.
Mary A. Machira, director at International Student and Scholar Center, said she thinks it’s important for American students to reach out to international students first in order to break down cultural barriers.
“We want to give them an opportunity for other students, especially domestic students, to see that it’s not just about their own little space. It’s not just about Utah, and it’s not just about Ogden,” Machira said.
The purpose of the event is to also foster different perspectives, according to Vaeding.
“I think it’s great if Americans try and learn our cultures and dig into what the culture is, not just what they have seen from media or television, but really dig into it,” Vaeding said.
The International Student and Scholar Center invites everyone from all walks of life to their Coffee Break every Friday at 1:30 p.m. to share their cultures through food and camaraderie.