Window to the world
Campus celebrates 25th anniversary of popular International Week
Hundreds of school children, including some who had never traveled beyond Texas' borders, visited the world during UTA's 25th annual International Week in late March.
Large green "passports" in hand, they wandered through Africa to Turkey, India, China, Japan and Taiwan, ooohing and aahing at the elaborately decorated exhibits filling the E.H. Hereford University Center Bluebonnet Ballroom. At every stop, their passports were stamped, slowly filling with the symbols of nations throughout the world. Ten-year-old Dafne Aguilar was thrilled to see her name written in unfamiliar, exotic characters.
"The sharing of cultural traditions and history through food, music, dance, art, literature and dress is one way people can learn about each other on an individual basis."
-International Office Director Judy Young
"Look, I have my name from China, Thailand and Iran," she said.
An origami display at the Japanese booth sparked the beginnings of a new hobby for fourth-grader Matthew Holloway. Tucking a green paper swan into his back pocket, he said, "I liked Japan because of this stuff. I'm going to collect these."
The first International Weekinitially a one-day eventwas organized in 1978 under the auspices of the International Office, which has overseen every event since. International Office Director Judy Young says exposing children (and adults) to other cultures is an essential part of their education.
"It's very difficult to talk about a nation with prejudice if you know someone from that country," she said.
The first event featured six or seven exhibits in a room on the second floor of the Activities Building. Organizers added a talent show the next year, and the event has steadily grown, expanding to a full week in the early 1980s.
"The underlying premise for the importance of International Week has always remained the same," Dr. Young said. "The sharing of cultural traditions and history through food, music, dance, art, literature and dress is one way people can learn about each other on an individual basis."
When international program Coordinator Julie Walkin came to UTA, she was surprised by the scope of International Week.
"Although similar programs are held on other campuses across the country, most are nowhere close to this magnitude," she said.
Culture Unlimited, the 2002 edition of International Week, began with the Parade of Flags March 25. Colorful banners from 30 countries waved in the Texas breeze as representatives carried them carried across campus.
To find the International Week Food Fair held Tuesday, the lunchtime crowd honed in on the aromas wafting across the University Center mall. College of Science Dean Neal Smatresk counts himself among the Food Fair's biggest fans, and he makes certain that the date is marked prominently on his calendar. "It is my single favorite event on campus," he said.
"It's a time when the whole campus community really gets together. Everybody's there to compare notes on the best pastry or the best egg roll or whatever. I've been going for 15 or 20 years. It's the one event I never miss."
Other International Week events include the Fashion Show and the Global Extravaganza, a talent exhibition featuring music, art and dance from the many nations represented on campus. Including the exhibits, shows and food, approximately 425 students participated in this year's International Week.
"It's an excellent educational experience for all
the visitors and for our students," Walkin said. "This week
is for everyone. It's a way for us all to learn about each other."