International Education Week Ideas for 2014

The Melibee Hive has once again brainstormed some creative (and fun!) ideas for celebrating International Education Week in November. (Special thanks to Melibee’s fabulous Kyle Spears for collecting and writing this piece!)

As the fall semester is well underway at college campuses across North America, the joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education, International Education Week (IEW), will soon be upon us! This year, IEW will be held from November 17th through 21st. IEW is an excellent time to raise awareness for all things international on your campus, but we know how difficult it can be coming up with innovative and creative ideas for programming from year to year. That is why we here at Melibee are happy to offer some ideas that you might adapt for your own campus!

1.  Create a 5-Senses Competitioncoffeebeans

When traveling abroad, use of the 5 senses is key to interpreting the world around us. Create a friendly, competitive game around this idea by seeing if students can guess what a certain item is based on solely scent, touch, taste, hearing, or sight. Blind fold people and make them only use their nose to figure out a certain smell that is indicative of a certain region of the world (e.g. kimchi or some coffee beans) and then ask them to place a pin on a map where they think that smell/item comes from; or perhaps ask participants to use their ears to figure out what language someone is speaking. In particular, scent is quite international in terms of what people associate certain words with, so this could prove to be quite fun!

2.  POP Culture
Who doesn’t love a good lesson in pop culture? Introduce your domestic students to international pop culture by having each day of the week being linked to a different pop culture phenomenon in another country with a comparison to that of the United States. For example, one day’s theme could be “Who is the Lady Gaga of X Country?” Using social media, a huge mural or chalk wall in a public forum, or some other medium, students could leave their responses or share photos/video. In this example, one response might be Japan’s Carrie Pyamu Pyamu.

Matthew Abrams traveled the world for 7 years as a writer and photojournalist.

3. Host a student friendly keynote
If you are looking for someone new for a keynote presentation, consider bringing one of our Melibee speakers to spice things up! We have a range of speakers who can cover a wide variety of internationally-oriented topics such as Michael Twitty’s Kosher/Soul: Black-Jewish Identity Cooking is a great way for us to understand the link between food and identiy, Fatima Ashraf’s The Dejabis: Muslim American Women Unveiled is a progressive woman’s perspective on her faith traditions, Discover your Compass with Matthew Abrams helps students understand that study abroad is not the “end” of the journey, or Make It Count! How to Make the Most of Your Study/Education Abroad Experience with Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll offers tips on how to really make meaning of time overseas!

4.  Learn Culture 101
IEW is all about understanding other cultures, right. But how many people in your world have actually spent time understanding what we even MEAN by using the word culture? Problem solved – Melibee U is hosting a super affordable webinar for your campus community called Culture 101 with Jamie Gelbtuch. A group rate is available, so pack as many faculty, students, staff and community into a meeting space and learn from this incredible cross-cultural trainer and coach! (The event is on November 5th, but it can still serve as a great introduction to the upcoming week!)

5. Who Am I? Understanding our Own Identity


We know that a big key to having an enriching experience abroad is understanding our own identity, but our students might not know this! Introduce this concept by linking up with your school’s art department. Have an art professor host a lesson on exploring the theme of identity through self-portraits using colorful drawing tools. Facilitated in tandem with a sociology or cultural expert on campus, this can be an enriching experience that prepares students for future international sojourns.

5. Recreate a World Festival
Ok, so maybe you don’t need to go off and try to recreate Scotland’s Fire Festival, but take a look at this BuzzFeed article and see how you might creatively recreate one of the many interesting world festivals on your campus. For example, Taiwan’s lantern festival seems like a wonderful evening activity to host on your campus in conjunction with your student Taiwanese organization.

6. Host a Chopped Competition, International Style
Not familiar with the Food Network’s hit reality show Chopped? In each episode, four chefs compete; their challenge is to take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn them into a dish that is judged on their creativity, presentation, and taste with minimal time to plan and execute. You can organize baskets ahead of time to consist of different regionally-inspired ingredients. Involve international student organizations by having representatives judge the entries! (If budget is a concern, tasking students to simply come up with a creative recipe rather than an actual cooking demo could be a workaround.)


7.  International Business Etiquette Lunch
Students seem to be very interested with career preparation, so capitalize on this by hosting a lunch focused on international business etiquette. During this mock lunch, different international stations could be set up where a select group individuals is instructed to act a certain way according to cultural norms they are given prior to the start of the lunch. Another group of students then comes into the lunch and the fun ensures. Have a facilitator strategically positioned at each station to help students understand what may or may not be acceptable for different cultures during a typical lunch meeting.

8. Partner Up! 
Folks in your career services office could have a mini career fair focusing on international internship and job opportunities, how to research such opportunities, and basics of how to begin researching immigration matters related to working abroad. (Melibee’s Zahara Heckscher leads two great presentations on working and volunteering abroad research.) Campus wellness and health offices may be able to provide a presentation on working through culture shock and reverse culture shock for recently-returned study abroad and international students alike. Opportunities to help promote IEW exist for virtually every department on campus!

9.  Speak Social Media socialmediamarketer

Encourage recently returned study abroad students to share photos from their time abroad with an IEW hashtag (e.g. MelibeeIEW14). Use this week to unveil winners of photo and video contests on social media platforms. Host trivia contests on Twitter and give out prizes. A strong social media campaign is key to spreading the word.

10. Peace Corps Stories
Does your campus have a dedicated Peace Corps recruiter or is there one for your region (find out here)? Or maybe you have graduate students or faculty members who participated in Peace Corps. Either way, utilize your Peace Corps reps on campus to promote Peace Corps opportunities. One way to change it up this time is to have the past participants focus on cultural storytelling.  Stories tend to draw more people in than sharing only program details. In addition, these could be great individuals to invite with other past sojourners to host a lunch-and-learn session on crossing cultures, cultural adaptation, and meaningful travel abroad.

These are just a few ideas that the fabulous Melibees have come up with for this year. What other ideas do you have for IEW 2014? “Bee” sure to share them below!


About the Author:  Kyle Rausch works for Arizona State University’s Study Abroad Office in Tempe, Arizona.  In the past he has served as Immigration Specialist and Passport Acceptance Facility Manager at Florida State University. You can learn more about him here.