Lehigh’s annual International Week is one of the largest events of its kind, according to the U.S. Department of State. There will be over 30 internationally-focused events from Nov. 6 to 14 that are sponsored by the Global Union and 40 co-sponsoring clubs.
“We want to bring the world to Lehigh,” said Danielle Hanes, ’16, president of the Global Union.
Clubs who co-sponsor events work with the Global Union to get the funding and publicity to bring their ideas to fruition. From competitions to performances to educational events, the week is filled with opportunities to share and experience difference cultures.
Because so many organizations are participating in International Week, every student on campus has at least one connection to an event, according to Global Union intern Lauren DiNapoli, ’18. Whether through their friend, heritage or involvement in a participating club, everyone has a reason to attend part of International Week, even if they just want to expand their palate.
“There is free food at almost all of the events, so if you wanted to you could basically eat for free all through International Week,” Hanes said.
This year, Global Union aimed to connect with more organizations from unique corners of campus. For example, the Residence Hall Association is co-sponsoring with the Global Union to host The Amazing Race, a competition where teams of students race to complete challenges through the underclassmen dorms.
The week also features a number of performances from dancing to skits. On Thursday, the Black Student Union and Asian Cultural Society are holding Fusion, the largest dance performance at Lehigh of the semester. Hanes said that in the past, both clubs held separate dance performances. Fusion originated when the clubs decided to combine their efforts and create a fusion of cultures, dance styles, music and tradition.
“It’s a great example of all the different types of people at Lehigh, and how the interests can vary so greatly,” Hanes said.
Throughout the week there are also educational events like film screenings and guest speakers. Hanes said that Global Union tries to make events as hands-on as possible, so educational events like these often have interactive components as well.
Bill Hunter, the director of international outreach at Lehigh, said that all students will benefit from developing a more internationally-conscious perspective. Students who are comfortable working with people from other cultures and backgrounds will be at a great advantage in the job market, regardless of their major.
“I think Americans are realizing that they have to understand the world in order to be effective within it,” Hunter said.
Both domestic and international students are highly involved in International Week, and this allows organic interactions to take place among students who might not otherwise interact.
DiNapoli said that the goal of the week is to create and preserve cross-cultural unity and friendship.
“Do your best to come to an event,” DiNapoli said. “It’s really a great way to broaden your horizons and open your eyes to what we have on campus.”
Hanes said that one of the biggest takeaways she has gotten from her involvement with the Global Union and International Week is that in order to progress and better ourselves as a community, we must aim for more than tolerance of other backgrounds.
“In the United States, people like to preach tolerance as if it’s a grand idea or phenomenon, but at the end of the day just tolerating someone doesn’t change the current state of things,” Hanes said.
Rather, having a genuine interest in other people regardless of their background will allow people to learn so much more from one another.
Lehigh’s International Week is an ongoing initiative for lasting change on campus.
Hanes said that while many movements on campus are successful in the short term, the same problems arise again and again. By annually giving students a platform to connect with one another, International Week allows students to develop a global competence that will inform and enrich their interpersonal experiences.