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International Week sets standard for nation

Students, faculty, and staff were able to go around the world in seven days without ever leaving Lehigh last week.

As part of the 4th annual International Education Week, Lehigh hosted one of the largest celebrations of diversity in the country, with events paying tribute to nations all over the globe. Participants were able to take a tour of the counties of Ireland, watch a South East Asian dance troupe perform a mix of traditional Indian dance, salsa, and hip-hop, listen to a mariachi band, learn the five pillars of the Muslim religion, and try foods from 17 countries around the world.

"International Week is a great chance to expose people at Lehigh to different cultures. I think a lot of people learned a lot from it," says Harini Kasturi '06, who performed in the South East Asian dance troupe called "Tarana" in the Asa Packer Dining Room on Thursday.

The week kicked off on Sunday, Nov. 9, with a seminar on the cultural implications of being a woman of color at Lehigh and beyond, and then officially launched with a parade of flags at the Alumni Memorial Building on Monday.

Other events included an international Jeopardy game, a Greek music and dance festival, Native American food and craft festival, and the grand finale: Festivus (borrowed from the fictitious, all-inclusive holiday started by Frank Costanza, the irritable father of George, on Seinfeld), an international eat-a-thon featuring ethnic foods from 17 different countries around the world, including Malaysia, Turkey, and Mexico.

"It was exciting to have so many students, clubs, departments, offices and even colleges as a whole participate in International Week," says Bill Hunter, director of the office of international students and scholars. "The university community embraced the week, making it a tremendous success and setting the standard for the nation."

Throughout the week, all cafeterias featured international food, and all university students, faculty and students were invited to attend luncheons at local ethnic eateries such as Pho Vung Tau, a Vietnamese restaurant in Allentown, and Elizabeth's Diner, a Hungarian eatery in Hellertown.

A global university

A highlight of the week was the office decorating competition, where offices all over the university chose to turn their workspaces into the country of their choice.

"I was really impressed with the creativity, enthusiasm, and work that went into all the offices," says Gisela Nansteel, immigration specialist in the office of international students and scholars and one of the contest's judges.

It was a tough decision, but Nansteel and her fellow judges—Bonnie Beidleman, secretary in the office of international students and scholars, and Christine Pense, program officer of the Iacocca Institute—awarded the College of Arts and Sciences first place for their Irish-themed makeover.

"The College of Arts and Sciences office did a lot of research and put a lot of work into their display. They even made an Irish stew and had a violinist playing When Irish Eyes are Smiling," Nansteel says.

Maryann Haller, graduate program coordinator in CAS, said her office chose Ireland because all of their work study students are of Irish decent.

"We started talking about doing Ireland a year ago, right after last year's office decorating contest," she says. "We decided to do a tour of Ireland, including Dublin, Galway, Cork, Blarney, and Kilarny."

Everyone in the CAS office played a role.

"The students made large drawings of each of the areas, Phil Clauser hand-made Irish flags, and Janine Sobell made potato cakes and potato candy," Haller says.

For their efforts, the CAS office received $100, which they plan to put toward their office Christmas party. Runners up included the 415 Complex, which did Great Britain (and won $50), and a tie for third place ($25) between Mathematics (Greece), C208 Dean of Students (Saudi Arabia), and STEP/UP and Foni (also Greece).

Throughout the week, students learned a lot from the myriad of events and from each other, setting a precedent for future interaction and celebration of diversity at Lehigh.

"The success of International Week showed that Lehigh is truly a global university, in thought, word, and deed," Hunter says.

--Elizabeth Shimer

Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003

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