Cultural exchange promoted through International Education Week

Vidushi Shrimali

More than 2,000 students left Austin to study abroad last school year, and this fall about twice as many international students from 115 countries came to the city to study at UT.

The University’s second annual International Education Week, Monday through Friday, celebrates cultural diversity on campus and promotes international exchange.

Thirty-five campus organizations will host 55 events this week, ranging from lectures on traveling tips to foreign film screenings and a world trivia competition Thursday night.

On Monday, Russian language and East European and Eurasian studies graduate student Elliott Nowacky spoke about interning at the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation in Ukraine and later serving as the chief of the defense cooperation branch in Kazakhstan. Nowacky said that as a diplomat he often had to follow local cultural traditions, including eating horse meat and beginning dinners with four vodka shots.

“It gives a basic understanding of what the world outside is like,” Nowacky said. “Besides Mexico and Canada, we have these two giant oceans separating us from the rest of the world.”

Nowacky, a retired Army major, gave students who were interested in diplomacy an overview of positions offered at U.S. embassies around the world and useful tips for a future career in international relations.

Biology freshman Saurabh Ghosh moved to the U.S. from India two years ago to attend UT. He said he enjoys world affairs, and Nowacky’s story sparked his interest to attend the lecture. Ghosh said he is excited for the trivia competition hosted at the McCombs School of Business on Thursday, and has organized a team to compete.

“Traveling makes you a better global citizen,” said Ghosh, who is deciding between a career in medicine and international diplomacy.

Claudia Prieto, chairwoman for International Education Week, said the week is intended to push students not only to travel outside the United States, but to interest students in coming to the U.S.

“Many of them only learn about the United States through Hollywood or music, which isn’t fully representative of U.S. society,” said Prieto, who also serves as the International Programs Coordinator in the McCombs School.

Prieto said studying in the United States offers international students the opportunity to practice their English skills, just as studying abroad offers UT students the opportunity to learn languages that aren’t common in the United States.

The U.S. departments of State and Education created International Education Week in 2000, which is now recognized in more than 100 countries.