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International Awareness Week at Gallaudet pays tribute to rich palette of diverse cultures

April 4, 2011
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International Awareness Week (IAW), a time to recognize the world’s rich palette of diverse cultures, was commemorated from March 21 to 25, 2011. IAW is eagerly anticipated at Gallaudet as an occasion to celebrate and embrace the ethnic identities of the University’s students.

Gallaudet boasts citizens from 52 countries among its student body. Although the highest percentage of Kendall Green’s international students hail from Canada (30), Saudi Arabia (19), China (11), Nigeria (10), India and Japan (nine each), South Korea and United Arab Emirates (seven each), and Thailand (six), the University’s students also come from such far-flung places as Mongolia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Fiji. “The diversity of international students at Gallaudet shows the breadth and reach of our University,” said Tabitha Jacques, international admissions counselor in the Office of Admissions. “It also shows how important we are to the development of access and empowerment of deaf people in faraway places.”

The week’s events at Gallaudet, hosted by the Center for International Programs and Services (CIPS), opened with a colorful parade of flags by the English Language Institute Student Organization (ELISO). On day two, traditional indigenous fashions were modeled by the ELI students from Mali, Japan, Thailand, China, Fiji, Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The three Thai models emphasized to the audience that traditional fashion varies from region to region. The same is true for China, the student modeling Chinese clothing explained. The Mali model wore the time honored Toureg bukar (black turban) that is worn only by men when their elders determine they have reached the appropriate level of maturity. The third day of the IAW celebration saw dance performances by students from Nigeria and India. Another highlight of the day was a presentation by the Gallaudet-Japan Kizuna Team. The team was established by Japanese students to assist with the University’s relief efforts to deaf people in Japan affected by the devastating tsunami and earthquake. The students chose the word Kizuna, which means “connectedness” or “bond,” to focus on the attributes of the Japanese people. A throng of people from the University community filled the JSAC Marketplace and the balcony to see the presentation, entitled “Japan: Disaster Readiness and the Deaf.”

After the presentation, the audience trooped over to the HMB Atrium for the monthly International Social Hour, where Dr. Asiah Mason, CIPS director, and Tissa Peiris, ELI instructor, gave a presentation on the importance of tipping waiters at U.S. restaurants-a practice that isn’t followed in many international students’ home countries. On the fourth day, Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a noted Egyptian scholar at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va., and a former Islamic extremist, gave an enthralling presentation on the current political and social upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East. Rian Norris, a history major and congressional intern, noted that coincidentally, the civil unrest taking place in the Middle East exploded within a week after the start of a course she is taking this semester, “History of the Modern Middle East.” She said the course material gave her a deeper appreciation for Hamid’s lecture. “By doing the assigned [course] readings, paying attention to the lectures given by the professor, and participating in classroom discourse, I was easily able to comprehend every aspect of the lecture.”

The highlight of the week, as always, was ELISO’s international food sale, featuring cuisine from Sweden, Fiji, Thailand, Peru, South Korea, Japan, Mali, and Mexico.

IAW activities concluded on March 25 with a parade of flags and a raffle drawing that raised about $1,000 for the Togo School for the Deaf in Lomé, Togo. Closing activities also saw Sherly Jacob won the inaugural Study Abroad Photo Contest. Jacob’s photo, taken while she was travelling in Guilin, China in 2009, depicts a woman from a village near the Longji rice terrace fields and a friend of Jacob’s. Jacob wrote of her photo: “This village only has had contact with the rest of the world since about 2000, when a main road was built into the mountains, thus connecting the mountainous village with the rest of the world. My friend Kim was negotiating with the Yao woman about some bracelets she was selling.” Second place went to Monica Keller for a photo showing her and her colleagues stomping clay during the 2009 Freshman Study Tour to Costa Rica.

CIPS will continue bringing guest lecturers to campus, hosting international visitors, and working with ELISO members through the rest of the semester. This fall, CIPS will gather a panel of returned Peace Corps volunteers who worked in the deaf community in honor of the international service program’s 50th anniversary.

— Larry Musa

4 April 2011

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