International Education Week introduces Elon community to culture of West Africa

Students were able to experience the culture of West Africa without having to leave the campus community. International Education Week hosted programs that enabled students actively learn about the region.

In its fourth year on Elon’s campus, International Education Week is national program devoted to celebrating and learning about different areas of the world, according to Paul Geis, associate director of study abroad.

“This week fits in so well with the Elon mission statement: forming students to be global students with global engagement,” Geis said. “It’s the chance for the Elon community to learn about and experience different cultures and people, as well as the reasons why we celebrate.”

Events for the week, from Nov. 12-16,  included themed meals in various dining halls, a West African Market, a dance performance at College Coffee, a cooking demonstration, presentations (does this need to be included? It’s kind of a long list.) and a fashion show.

“It’s our international initiative to teach students about different areas in the world and celebrate international cultures,” said Omolayo Ojo, student coordinator for International education week. “It’s important when the campus brings other cultures to the students because they can travel without leaving campus.”

The Global Education Center’s advisory group selects the theme each year and elected to focus on West Africa, according to Geis. In previous years, the themes included the Middle East, Mexico and India. Next year, the traditional week will feature China.

West Africa was chosen because of the strong ties and knowledge that Elon has with that area in the world, particularly through study abroad, according to Geis.

Cara McClain, a junior Periclean Scholar from Durham, spent last winter term in Ghana, which is part of the West African region.

“It was really cool that the theme this year is West Africa,” McClain said. “Most of us have a one-sided view of Africa.”

Because of the weather, the attendance for the events early in the week was low, but increased as the week went on, according to Geis.

Freshman Vee Bland said she went to Colonnades without realizing she was attending the West African Dinner.

“The food was really good, some of what I thought wouldn’t be good turned out to be my favorite,” Bland said. “It was a really good way to learn things beyond where we are.”

The week featured speakers and events presented by members of the Elon community, as well as visitors from all over.

“It’s a chance for faculty and staff with expertise in this area to share their experiences and knowledge with students outside of the classroom,” Geis said.

This year’s International Education week was successful because of the collaboration with different departments and programs at Elon, according to Geis.

“One way Elon encourages global engagement is through study abroad,” Geis said, “but this week is another way for students to experience it.”

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