Students come together to celebrate diversity
Eavesdrop on enough conversations in the University Center, and chances are you’ll eventually come across one in a language other than English. With 20 percent of Carnegie Mellon’s student body coming from countries outside the United States and with a sister campus in Qatar, Carnegie Mellon is truly a global community. Last week, the campus celebrated this diversity with the International Festival, held Thursday through Saturday. Throughout the latter half of the week, flags from countries all around the world were displayed in the University Center in honor of the festival. The theme for this year’s International Festival was “Borders: Crossings, Conflicts, Connections,” and the events throughout the three-day festival all exemplified this theme.
The Study Abroad Fair is a hub for international information. With over 20 different independent study abroad programs present, one could find a program for almost anywhere in the world, from Japan or South America to a voyage around the Atlantic Ocean. External companies were not the only ones represented at the fair, though; representatives from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the Tepper School of Business, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences each had their own table and spoke to students about study abroad options that best fit the majors of Carnegie Mellon students.
Studying abroad, whether for a summer, a semester, or a year, can be an enriching experience that allows you to immerse yourself in another culture. The Study Abroad Fair had several vendors whose programs boasted multi-country excursions, including Semester at Sea, a 104-day academic sailing voyage that stops in 11 countries, and the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, whose program features week-long field trips to countries across Europe.
Most study abroad programs represented at the fair on Thursday boasted price tags of less than $15,000 a semester, with several programs that were less than $10,000 a semester. Through the study abroad company CIS, for example, you could spend a semester in Prague in the Czech Republic for about $8,500 a semester. With such low tuition, many parents are willing to send their students across the world for a semester. There are also plenty of options to apply for financial aid toward programs abroad.
The Study Abroad Fair also provided testimonies as to what a positive experience studying abroad can be, displayed in the hallways of the University Center. Winners of the Tartans Abroad Scholarship had poster displays recounting tales of their trips abroad, with experiences ranging from the highest governmental agencies of South Korea to the poorer neighborhoods of South Africa, and everywhere in between.
After the Study Abroad Fair, the International Festival hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary Crossing Borders. According to the documentary’s website, crossingbordersfilm.org, Crossing Borders follows four Moroccan and four American university students as they travel together through Morocco and, in the process of discovering “the other,” discover themselves. With group travels and frank discussions, the students confront the complex implications of the supposed clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. A panel discussion, featuring Carnegie Mellon students from both the Pittsburgh and Qatar campuses, followed the screening to discuss the major questions and themes brought up in the documentary.
The keynote lecture and lunch took place last Friday, featuring human rights activist Enrique Morones. Morones is the founder of the humanitarian group Border Angels, which provides water and other essential supplies to people traveling through the treacherous desert areas of Mexicowhile attempting to reach the United States border. Migrants travel through these harsh environments because of Operation Gatekeeper, an American high-budget project that makes it nearly impossible for migrants to travel across safer areas of the border. According to Morones, “10,000 human beings have died as a result of Operation Gatekeeper.”
During his lecture, Morones explained how he had first gotten involved with aiding migrant workers, and recounted some of the events and campaigns he had planned to fight against racism and to encourage humane immigration reform. According to Morones, one of his earliest projects had been a convention in Los Angeles, after the Rodney King riots, that worked to promote diversity and to emphasize that “we are all members of the human race, not different races.” He also talked about his success organizing nationwide marches and protests that blocked the passing of House Resolution 4437, which would have built a wall along the entire border between the United States and Mexico. More recently, Morones delivered 40,000 letters to President Barack Obama, explaining why humane immigration reform is necessary in the United States. “This is an issue about civil rights and human rights, what’s happening with immigration,” Morones said. He also emphasized the importance of getting involved and told the audience, “It’s important that we do the right thing and speak out [against injustice].”
For those interested less in politics and more in partying, there was “Cultural Fusion: A Multicultural Late Night Event” last Friday evening in the University Center. The show-cased international food, music, and dancing, starting off with the Pittsburgh-based band Global Beats, whose music featured sounds from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Caribbean. After performing for about an hour, Global Beats was followed by a DJ and dancers who performed dance sets from Brazil, India, the Middle East, and Latin America. Carnegie Mellon’s International Student Union also contributed to the evening with artifacts from different nations and dessert and drinks from around the world.
After an evening of multicultural dancing, Saturday morning featured the “Traveling Tartans Showcase — Highlights from Student Groups’ Short-Term Trips Abroad” at the University Center. The showcase featured presentations from groups of Carnegie Mellon students who had received funding from the Tartans Abroad Scholarship to study abroad during academic break periods. If spending your summer, spring, or winter break abroad sounds appealing, then go to Carnegie Mellon’s study abroad website at
www.studentaffairs.cmu.edu/oie/sab/gettingstarted/index.html and click on “Funding” to check out the requirements for the Tartans Abroad Scholarship.
The International Festival’s final program of the weekend was “Traveling Tartans — Study Abroad Options at Carnegie Mellon,” an information session about studying abroad that was presented in conjunction with Family Weekend. Parents and students learned about all the benefits of studying abroad, including the academic, cultural, and economic benefits.
Even if you missed the events of the International Festival, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to investigate and celebrate Carnegie Mellon’s international community. Ask an international friend to tell you about his or her home country’s culture. Eat dinner at Resnik Café on Tuesday for some French cuisine. Attend the “Seeking Employment Opportunities Abroad” information session on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the McKenna/Peter/Wright Rooms of the University Center. And, if all else fails, you can always wait for next year’s International Festival.