Faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University are encouraging students to step outside their comfort zone this week by organizing a range of intercultural events during WKU's International Education Week.
Anna Yacovone, a coordinator with the Office of International Programs, said the event "provides an opportunity to set the stage for students who may be less inclined to interact with other cultures."
"Its goal is to celebrate international education worldwide," she said.
Events range from coffee hours for international students to practice their English skills, a workshop for communicating across cultures and a panel discussion with WKU alumni sharing their experiences teaching internationally.
Another event called Through the Eyes of a Refugee, will allow students to put themselves in the shoes of refugees from Syria, South Sudan and Ukraine.
Louisville junior Maggie Sullivan, who's organizing the event, said she hopes it will help "educate people about the challenges young refugees face.”
Students passing by WKU's Centennial Mall from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday can try on virtual reality technology developed by the United Nations. Sullivan said the technology allows students to explore a refugee camp in Jordan and experience audio stories of the people who live there.
“I think one of the most important parts of this particular event is that we’re trying to make sure that their stories are being told," Sullivan said. "Not telling their stories for them."
After experiencing refugees' stories, students can make a pledge to action and share their pledge on social media.
"The idea is for them to learn as much as possible before making judgments," she said.
Sullivan heads up the WKU Chapter of No Last Generation, a student group that aims to raise support for refugees and is the first chapter in Kentucky, Sullivan said.
"We’ve had a really strong level of support so far," she said.
Communication Professors Jieyoung Kong and Heather Strode are organizing "Communication Skills: Cultural 101 for International Encounters." The workshop is at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Downing Student Union in Rooms 2123 and 2124.
"The workshop empowers our students to design the communication process and determine the parameters of their discussion at the workshop," Kong said in the news release. "WKU has a very diverse student body in and outside the classrooms. But little learning and understanding seems to be happening across various divides when learning about each other, our experiences and views is becoming more important than ever before. Our workshop hopes to bridge that divide.”
— For information about this week's events, visit wku.edu/oip/iew/iew2016.php.
— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.