WEST LIBERTY – Local students and residents will have the opportunity to see the world without leaving the Hilltop in November, as West Liberty University’s international community hosts a diverse array of programs during International Education Month.
From Mexico’s Day of the Dead to Pakistani wedding traditions to the basics of the German, Japanese and Hebrew languages, presenters will share their collective wealth of pan-global knowledge with anyone interested in learning. An emphasis has been placed on currently relevant topics and hands-on or interactive activities. All programs are free and open to the public and take place in the Alumni Room of the Student Union with a few exceptions.
“We are hoping to expose as many different people as possible to international history and ideas and politics and culture,” said Dr. Heather Kalb, activities coordinator and recruiter of the WLU International Office, formerly a WLU biology professor. She noted the campus is home to 64 international students, 12 of whom are exchange students who are here for either one semester or one year.
“We have a range of talks with the goal that something appeals to somebody somewhere.”
The schedule is extensive — more than 30 programs — and begins with a Day of the Dead presentation on Wednesday, which is the traditional day the celebration of ancestors takes place in Mexico and Central America.
Dr. Felipe Rojas, a Chilean born Canadian in his first year as a Spanish professor at West Liberty, will talk about the origin of the holiday, display a traditional altar and allow attendees to color a paper skull and sample Day of the Dead bread, a round, slightly sweet, orange-flavored pull-apart bread.
“I thought that it would be kind of culturally appropriate to have it on Nov. 1,” Rojas said. For future international month programs, he hopes to focus on aspects of Chile and Canada.
On Thursday, the International Education Month Tea Time will take place from 3-5 p.m. in the Student Ballroom. The informal social event features tea and pastries from around the world. Kalb said she and Mia Szabo, International Student Office director, will make an excursion to Pittsburgh’s Strip District to acquire some of the items.
Megumi Maruta, a senior community education major from Japan, will share his experiences as a children’s adventure camp counselor last summer in Romania, where surmounting the language barrier proved an adventure in itself. He will discuss his journeys through Transylvania, Hungary and Austria, as well as the week he spent studying early childhood education in Reggio Emilia, Italy. On another day, he will give a Japanese 101 class on the culture and language of his home country.
His goal is to encourage other students to study abroad.
“I really feel like our university has so, so, so many opportunities around us,” Maruta said. “You just have to be aware of it, and you just have to be brave to make a decision for yourself” to pursue a different and potentially exciting path.
There are more faculty-led study-abroad trips available now than ever, said Dr. Vishakha Maskey, WLU associate professor of economics and management and a Nepal native who chairs the university’s Internationalization Committee The committee comprises faculty and staff who seek opportunities for students to study abroad. When she started 10 years ago, there was just one study-abroad trip and this year there are five faculty-led trips. And the international student census on campus has grown from five students to more than 60.
Maskey will present a program on challenges faced by international students, based on a survey conducted by her former student, Abdul Subhan, a Pakistan native and WLU graduate who first came to WLU through an exchange program then returned to for a degree.
“His experience here was so amazing, he came back,” Maskey said. Three other former exchange students have returned this year, Kalb said.
The students in the survey felt “the faculty were very welcoming and they received a quality education,” Maskey continued. She will share findings that may help to improve the experience of international students, such as providing Muslim students a place on campus to gather for daily prayer.
Two exchange students from Pakistan, Syeda Tehreem Ali and Haseeb Ashfaq, will present two back-to-back programs on Nov. 14: Marriage Traditions in Pakistan at 3:30 p.m. and Muslim Stereotypes at 4:30 p.m. They will be joined in the latter session by Nur Masawra from Palestine and Halim Zaibi from Tunisia.
“People will learn how marriage in Pakistan (especially arranged marriage) is different from that in States. Also, how we follow different traditions and what are different types of traditional event in every marriage in Pakistan, and reason of every traditional event,” Ashfaq said.
Ali said she wanted to do the Muslim stereotype program to help shed light on the peaceful tenets of the Islam faith. There will be a box for anonymous questions.
“I think people will learn some positive things because all people aren’t same in this world, doesn’t matter wherever you are,” she said.
Additional programs run the gamut of interests, from Russian soccer competitions to Australian wildlife to women’s rights in Tunisia to ecotourism in Nepal.
Some are presented by students and others by faculty or community members. A full list is below.
Kalb said she has invited local schools to bring students to any of the programs, and other groups also are welcome. She can arrange campus tours and meetings with specific academic program faculty members in conjunction with the visits.
“We would be thrilled to welcome students from other schools and other classes to campus,” Kalb said.
“We hope that more people will attend this because we do put a lot of effort into it and because our international students work really hard,” Maskey added.
WLU International Education Month Schedule
- Nov. 1 — Day of the Dead, Student Ballroom, Dr. Felipe Rojas, 4:30 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — International Tea Time, Student Ballroom, 3-5 p.m.
- Nov. 6 — Issues and Challenges Concerning International Students, Dr. Vishakha Maskey and Abdul Subhan, 10 a.m.
- Nov. 6 — Chinese language lesson Yijing Shen, 11 a.m.
- Nov. 6 — Japanese 101, culture and language lesson, Megumi Maruta, noon
- Nov. 7 — International Soccer Competitions in Russia Through the Eyes of a Volunteer (FIFA Confederations Cup 2017, World Cup 2018), Sasha Veshkurtseva, 4 p.m.
- Nov 7 — Traveling on a Budget, Dr. Rickard Briggs, 5 p.m.
- Nov. 7 — Russian folk dancing workshop, Albina Gilmieva, 6 p.m.
- Nov. 8 — Design Camp in Korea, Boyle Conference Room, Moonjung Kang and students, noon
- Nov. 8 — From Capetown to Bulgaria, A Parable of Travel, Dr. Theunis van Aardt, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 8 — Women in Tunisia: Women’s Rights, Abir Farhat, 2 p.m.
- Nov. 8 — Israel-Palestine Politics From the View of a Palestinian, Nur Masarwa, 3 p.m.
- Nov. 8 — Gun control in Australia, Nicholas Liddy, 4 p.m.
- Nov. 9 — Ecotourism and Festivals in Nepal, Adwit Lamichhane, 10 a.m.
- Nov. 9 — Current Politics in Nigeria, Babatunde Abidemi Oyebade, 11 a.m.
- Nov. 13 — Australian Wildlife, Nicholas Liddy, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 13 — A Visit to Lake Tia, China, Michelle Zhou, 2 p.m.
- Nov. 13 — Internship and Study Abroad Experience in Taiwan, Dr. Miriam Roth Douglas and Lindsay Peluchette, 3 p.m.
- Nov. 14 — History of Ukraine, Damir Barakat, 9 a.m.
- Nov. 14 — Roman Influence in Tunisia Today, Halim Zaibi, 11 a.m.
- Nov. 14 — The World is Colorful: Increasing Acceptance for LGBTQ in Germany, Klara Kabuth, 2 p.m.
- Nov. 14 — Marriage Traditions in Pakistan, Haseeb Ashfaq and Syeda Tehreem Ali, 3:30 p.m.
- Nov. 14 — Muslim Stereotypes, Syeda Tehreem Ali, Haseeb Ashfaq, Halim Zaibi and Nur Masarwa, 4:30 p.m.
- Nov. 15 — What’s So Great About the Great Highland Bagpipes? Betsy McFarland Bethel, 11 a.m.
- Nov. 15 — An Introduction to Poland, Tiana Knowlton and Kasia Nowakowska, noon
- Nov. 15 — German Language 101, Dr. Miriam Roth Douglas, 2 p.m.
- Nov. 15 — Writing workshop for Hebrew and Arabic, Nur Masarwa, 3 p.m.
- Nov. 16 — Study Abroad Experience in Romania, Megumi Maruta, 9:30 a.m.
- Nov. 16 — Study Abroad Opportunities for American Students in Germany with the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, Klara Kabuth, 11 a.m.
- Nov. 16 — My Experience in Germany as a High School Exchange Student, Muhammad Sherazi, 12:30 p.m.
- Nov. 16 — Russian Language 101, Anastasia Ovchinnikova, 2 p.m.
For information, call the International Student Office at 304-336-8382.