Tuesday night, the International House hosted a Welcome Weekevent called "Beyond the Borders." Gathering in the parking lotoutside the I-House, about 150 students of various ages and backgrounds milledaround, dancing to songs like "Gangnam Style" and sampling a variety of food fromcountries around the world.
"This is a great event because it isn't targeted directly at international students," said Kelsey Lavigne, a graduate student in college student personnel andintern at the International House. "It brings international and American students together so that they can really meet, make friends and expand their way of thinking. I think that's something that is special and not always easy to do."The event attempted to mix cultural education with entertainment.
"Beyond the Borders allows international students as well as students from UT to come and try flavors from all over the world," said Thuy Pham, a Master's student studying public policy and administration and currently working at the I-House. "We have quesadillas from Mexico, samosas from India, egg rolls from China, Thaidonuts, seaweed pancakes from Korea and bubble tea from Taiwan."
Pham, a Vietnamese-American student, is one of three graduate assistants that workat the I-House. The small staff also includes an associate director and 12 undergraduate students. Despite the limited staff, Pham says the I-House is one of the most active organizations on campus.
"It's a very small department that we run, but we do a lot of programming," Pham said. "We have alot of events and are very involved on campus."
In addition to special events, the I-House has three ongoing programs that occur weekly throughout the school year. One simple, yet popular initiativeis called "The Friendship Program."
"In 'The Friendship Program,' we pair up an international student with an American student. It's very low commitment," Pham said. "Basically the pairs meet once aweek and just become buddies. But the bonds that can form from this program canbe really strong and long-lasting."
Another event, labeled "Language Tables," features a laid-back approach to learning asecond language. Instead of practicing in what might be a tenseclassroom environment, students come to the I-House and converse withnative speakers in a more natural setting.
"This program is amazing, it's peer teaching," Pham said. "A student will come in andteach Italian or Chinese or Spanish to anyone who wants to learn about it. It's really relaxed and a lot of the professors from the foreign language departmenthave been noticing their students going to the I-House to learn."
In addition to weekly events, world showcases occur periodically throughout the year. These showcases highlight a certain country and its culture for a week. This year, the four countries to be celebrated are Korea, Zimbabwe, Liberia and China.
“The best night of the week is Culture Night,” Pham said. “Students can pay $5 to eat a full, authentic meal from the country being showcased and enjoy a night of entertainment.”
Every year, the I-House has one major event. This year, the organization is putting together an international dance competition. In November, students can sign up to compete against each other in traditional and contemporary dance categories. The I-House has also chosen two universal topics this year: world hunger and female empowerment. These themes will be discussed during the Global Issues discussions scattered across the events calendar. All are welcome to join these discussions in the International House Great Room.
“It creates less of a divide between different cultures,” Pham said of the benefits of global awareness. “When you really understand other people, it makes for less conflict and greater harmony for all.”
For more information about I-House events and programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the I-House on Melrose Avenue to speak to a staff member.