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Week celebrates education abroad, international studies

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, November 13, 2012

While Notre Dame offers some of the best academics in the country on its campus, International Education Week is intended to highlight the importance of academic and cultural exchange between institutions here and abroad.

McKenna Pencak, assistant director for International Student Services and Activities said International Education Week is a national celebration coordinated by the Departments of State and Education.

“[This week] celebrates and promotes international education and global exchange,” she said.

This year, one of the key events during the week is a memorial fundraiser hosted by the Chinese Friendship Association for sophomore Ziqi Zhang, the Saint Mary’s College international student who passed away in October, Pencak said.

The fundraiser will be held Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Center lounge and will benefit Zhang’s family, Pencak said.

Throughout the week, there will also be a variety of events on campus highlighting cultural diversity. Pencak said one of the most popular events is The Taste of South Bend.

“Students, staff and faculty can sample free international cuisine provided by local ethnic restaurants,” she said. “In years past, more than 300 people have attended this event.”

This event, in its third year, will take place Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the LaFortune Ballroom.

She said the week is important because of how integral international exposure and study abroad are to the Notre Dame experience.

“The University offers a wealth of opportunities for students to study, conduct research and do service abroad,” she said. “Sixty percent of undergraduate students at Notre Dame study abroad and more than 900 international students from nearly 90 countries attend Notre Dame.”

The week is a unique opportunity for international students to highlight their diverse backgrounds, Pencak said.

“International Education Week provides an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness of the international student community … [and] provides an opportunity for international students to share their cultures with the campus,” Pencak said.

One of the co-sponsors of the week is Notre Dame International, a relatively young branch of the University’s administration, Pencak said.

“The University established Notre Dame International two years ago to create even more international learning opportunities for students, facilitate international research collaborations and enhance the University’s reputation as a center for international scholarship, teaching and service,” she said. “Notre Dame International coordinates IEW [International Education Week] as a whole, whereas a variety of cultural clubs, institutes, departments and organizations coordinate individual events throughout the week.”

For Pencak, her favorite part of International Education Week is the way it brings the campus together.

“It’s great to see both American and international students celebrating cultural diversity and learning about different countries and cultures from one another,” she said.