Sharing cultures creates global atmosphere at UofSC
Through on-campus events, Global Carolina strives to create an exchange of international cultures
By Josh German, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” We have all heard this quote in some iteration, but how much truth does it hold? As the internationalization programming coordinator at the University of South Carolina, Julie Medlin is living this advice as the line between her job and her passion is as blurry as it can get.
Medlin, who studied abroad twice during her academic career, says her international experiences shaped her both personally and professionally.
“If I had not studied abroad and gotten outside of my small town in North Carolina, I wouldn't be in this career. I went to India and Italy within the same year. One was a summer trip and one was over spring break, and it was life changing,” Medlin said. “My trip to India really helped me see that people can live so differently than me, with so many different cultural rules … and it’s OK.”
The experiences she had overseas had a lasting impact on her by changing her perspective and helping her get the job she has now. She hopes more people will get the chance have similar experiences. Initiatives like Global Carolina and the annual International Education Week, taking place Nov. 11-15, help bring that international atmosphere to students right here on campus.
“For someone who might ask why international education is important, I believe it helps us see people that are different than us and helps us appreciate that difference,” Medlin said. “I don't expect that every USC student is going to have the opportunity to travel or the availability to, but they can meet people here in Columbia. The last check that we did, there are 97 countries represented on campus. That’s what makes me excited about my job, we're providing that opportunity for people who can't study abroad to meet other cultures.”
International education is more than just a week to display cultures in the Carolina community. With Global Carolina, there is an all-around effort to create an international atmosphere through its four offices: English Programs for Internationals, the Study Abroad Office, International Student Services and the International Accelerator Program. The university offers a wide range of outlets for both international and domestic students to share their cultures and participate in others.
“Most of the time when events like this happen, it is international students sharing their culture and observing other international students’ cultures. A true exchange, however, needs to be this two-way street where American culture is on display alongside international culture,” Medlin says.
She invites both American and international students to come together and share their cultures.
“It's not just what the international students add, it’s what both people get out of it. International students get to observe American culture and maybe realize that it's not what they see in the movies or on TV,” she says.
Since 2001, the university has hosted International Education Week, and it has grown each year. In 2008, the school held its first International Bazaar as the main event of the week.
“We want people to meet each other. We want it to be less stigma and less fear around talking to someone who speaks a different language. That's why we program so much,” Medlin says. “We want people to be like, ‘Hey, you're from Japan. I don’t know anything about Japan, tell me!’ That kind of sparks curiosity and takes the stress level down.”
Along with International Education Week, Global Carolina offers events throughout the year that showcase the many nationalities represented on campus. For example, an international buddy program pairs domestic and international students, and World Night combines a food experience and talent show. There’s even a World Cup soccer game that allows students to represent countries they’re from or just have an interest in.
“I think it says a lot about the person that they're willing to step outside their comfort zone and try new tastes or experiences. I hope that most people would be adventurous, but I know not everyone is. They're not going to go out and seek it, so that's another reason why we have this [week]. They can just like stumble upon it and go ‘Oh, there's this dance I didn't know about that looks kind of cool, I want to see what that’s about!,’” Medlin said.
“Everyone has a next step for learning about other cultures and I'm hoping that International Education Week is one of those.”
For more information, visit the International Education Week webpage.
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