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Notre Dame, SMC celebrate International Education Week

Mel Flanagan | Monday, November 14, 2011

International and domestic students can celebrate their cultures together during International Education Week (IEW), sponsored by the International Student Services and Activities (ISSA) this week.

McKenna Pensak, assistant director of communications and outreach for ISSA, said the nation-wide initiative brings different communities and cultures together.

“International Education Week is a national event that is coordinated by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education to celebrate and promote global exchange between the U.S. and other countries,” Pensak said.

ISSA sponsors the week of cultural events annually, Pensak said.

“I think this is a great week for all students, faculty and staff to learn about other countries and cultures,” Pensak said. “It’s also a really great way to celebrate the international student community at Notre Dame.”

Students learned about formal meal etiquette around the world at the Career Center’s International Student Etiquette Dinner on Monday night to kick off the week.

“We [talked] about formal etiquette specifically related to interviews or when you’re on the job, and how you should act in a formal meal situation,” she said.

Pensak said she expects the most popular event to be the second annual International Taste of South Bend held Wednesday in the LaFortune Ballroom.

“We have eight international restaurants from the community that are providing international cuisine samples,” Pensak said. “It’s totally free and a lot of fun.”

Approximately 200 students attended the inaugural event last year, Pensak said. Students from the International Ambassador program, a team of both international and American student leaders, helped organize the dining event.

Pensak said the ISSA also sponsors a sale of goods and handicrafts from the fair trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages every year during IEW.

“Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade organization which provides vital, fair income to Third World people by marketing their handiwork and telling their stories in North America,” Pensak said.

The products will be sold throughout the week in the atrium of Hesburgh Library.

Although she is looking forward to attending the Ten Thousand Villages handicraft fair, Lynn McGreevy, a sophomore from Ireland, said the lack of European-themed events is disappointing.

“It’s mostly catered to the Latino community and there’s something for Brazilians too, but there isn’t really anything for Europeans,” McGreevy said. “I think it’d be nice if there was, but I also think there’s not enough of us [Europeans] on campus for it to matter too much.”

McGreevy said she hopes this week will help domestic students realize that foreign cultures vary greatly from the Notre Dame culture.

“Notre Dame has such a strong culture — like everyone knows Notre Dame and its football and the huge religious side,” she said. “But when I came here I didn’t know anything about American football. I didn’t understand tailgating or any of that stuff.”

Karina Rattaccioli, a freshman from Nicaragua, agreed that IEW should encourage American students to learn more about the places international students call home.

“It should make everyone else aware of who international students are and what their cultures are,” Rattaccioli said. “It’s interesting finding out about all that and seeing the different backgrounds people are coming from.”

Last year, Pensak said IEW also began to collect donations for the Refugee Resettlement Program at the St. Joseph Chapter of the American Red Cross. The program needs children’s toys, school supplies and unopened toiletries, Pensak said.

“The St. Joe’s chapter became an authorized refugee resettlement agency in 2010,” she said. “They help settle refugees in the South Bend area. We will be collecting donations for them in 105 Main Building and at the International Taste of South Bend.”

For a complete list of the times and locations of the IEW events, visit issa.nd.edu