Did you know this week marks UT's International Education Week? I didn't know for sure until this morning.

When I arrived off the elevator to find Andy Holt's lobby decked out in orange and red colors and an impressive image of a conquistador, I had a suspicion some international celebration was in action.

UT's campus has more than 1,000 international students from more than 100 countries that include the Bahamas, Japan, India and Saudi Arabia. With so many students walking around from other cultures and perspectives, it's a shame to not to hold a conversation with an international student.

A girl in my economics class offered to study with me. We walked to class together. While speaking, I found out her name, Hui, and that she was a transfer student from China. Studying later that week with her and another Chinese transfer, they began to tell me about the poverty and their home university.

Hui described that the children in some parts of China cannot afford clothing. They can be seen hugging the pavement to find warmth. That's right, the road. The image of that has stayed with me. In fact it now reminds me of the thousands of homeless here in Knoxville.

If you've passed by the Fort or downtown, you know what I'm talking about. Many of the poor can be seen below the underpass on Broadway Street. I have never seen so many struggling in one location before – hundreds gather there during the day and some spend their night in the general area.

My new global friend also discussed what her university back in China was like and how it compared to UT. Simply put, she loved it. Yet, her friend who attended another university in rural China told a different story. She complained that they did not have showers in their dorms and had to walk to a separate building to do so. The lack of funding for his school and overcrowding isn't too much unlike our own UT campus.

Everyone knows parking is a daily nightmare that never concludes. If you are not swift, the consequences find you in the form of a $32 hold on your account or another late appearance to class. In a way, campus is overcrowded with cars. Now, it seems hard to imagine because of the sheer size of this place. Yet, a lack of proper adequate planning is the problem.

I began to relate to the problems of these two to the issues we face on Rocky Top and in Knoxville.

That is what much of this week is about in the first place. I realize we have a lot of awareness weeks on our campus, with Sex Week garnering the most of it, but don't forget the others though. Taking some time to adequately think about the diversity International Education Week celebrates is still important.

You can even learn to cook authentic Brazilian meals. Truth is, the monotonous choices of Chick-fil-A or Subway is getting old on my side of campus, and something exotic would spice up my day. Whether you attend any of I-House's free events or not, at least acknowledge they are available. And if you can't fit it into your schedule, educate yourself on international items through a few of the students we pass by every day.

It would do us all a bit of good to color our perspective. Get cultured, and it won't just last for a week but a lifetime. What other chance will we have to strike up a conversation with students originating from 100 other countries?

Rebecca Butcher is a junior in journalism & electronic media. She can be reached at rbutche2@utk.edu.