First Annual MIIS International Education Day a Success

First Annual MIIS International Education Day a Success

November 21, 2008

By Amy Beck


On November 21st, the Monterey Institute of International Studies launched its first annual International Education Day to commemorate International Education Week 2008 which lasts from November 17th – 21st. According to the IEW website, “International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.”


With a description like this, how could MIIS, famous for inter-cultural communication, and an international student body, not participate?


The International Education Day began at 9 in the morning. Groups of freshmen through seniors from Pacific Grove High School and Monterey High School filed into Irvine Auditorium to begin their day. The activity was optional for the students, and then their teachers had to approve their participation. The group of approximately fifty to sixty students listened to introductions by Gail Lu and Dr. Amy Sands, and then received instructions in the form of a stand-up comedy routine by Peter Shaw. After receiving his degree, Professor Shaw said he left home, England, as soon as possible in search of warm weather and flavorful food. He told the students that though the lunch later that afternoon would be multicultural, they shouldn’t worry about having to eat British food.


The students were divided into four groups, each with one or two ‘travel guides’ that led the students around campus and made sure they were always aware of the tour exits. The students participated in three of four activities, each led by MIIS students.


The first stop for my group was sponsored by the TESOL program. The high school students picked a language to be introduced to out of: Chinese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Japanese and Xhosa. MIIS TESOL students spent half an hour teaching basic phrases and cultural information. The Russian station played a music video; the Xhosa table listened to Mkebe and discussed traditional beadwork; the Japanese table folded origami.


Our next stop was Globetrotting 101. Peace Corps alumni and JET Programme (Japanese Exchange Teaching Programme) alumni shared personal experiences with the students. The alumni MIIS students were stationed at different tables and the students speed-dated their way through the room. The students had questionnaires to fill out with questions such as, ‘How much did you get paid for your experience with JET?’ and ‘Was it enough to live off of?’ Peace Corps alumni had worked in Mali, Namibia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, and JET alumni lived all over Japan.


Our final stop was the ESL Program sponsored activity. ESL students had created posters about their country and their experiences at MIIS. Students walked from poster to poster talking with the ESL students and learning about countries such as Kazakhstan, South Korea, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Colombia, to name a few. The activity we missed was Around the World in Thirty Minutes, which featured international participants of the AFS Cultural Program and Fulbright Program sharing experiences from their home country and here in the US.


The reactions from the high school students were extremely positive. Some students were declaring an interest to pack up and leave tomorrow. Others were creating thoughtful plans and weighing new possibilities. Others asked about the practicality of these options we were showing them and the financial implications of applications, the experience, and the long run. The buzz during the lunch in front of the Holland Center had a very different feel to it than the chatter at the beginning of the day. There was a new feeling of possibility. I remember when I discovered during my sophomore year of high school that I wouldn’t have to work behind a desk; I could work anywhere in the world in a variety of different fields. All I had to do was know where to look for these unique opportunities and how to present myself in such a way as to be accepted as a participant. The realization was empowering and invigorating. I saw that same look today in kids’ faces, and I felt empowered and invigorated again.


As a travel guide and MIIS student, the experience allowed me to get to know the different cultures represented at our school, and I found myself wishing that we had more events focused on learning about each others’ cultures. The extreme diversity of backgrounds and experiences that comprise the student body is an astonishing and oft forgotten element of MIIS student life, as we focus on readings and papers and exams. While we spend hours studying documents and research studies and documentaries about world events, we forget that often times we need only to turn to our neighbor in our core classes and ask.


3 Responses

  1. Hi Amy,

    Thank you for writing and posting this article. I completely agree with you that our friends and neighbors in class and the library are truly the most valuable connection and inspirational opportunity for learning that we can make while here at MIIS. Thank you for the great reminder of that lesson.
    All my best,

  2. Hello Amy,
    Thanks for taking the time to write this article and to point out how MIIS which is an international graduate school does not have a lot of cross cultural activities that will enable the students to learn about each other’s cultures and thus respect and value each other’s opinions during group work.
    I think this is the first step towards the true integration and cooperation of the many students that make the student body.
    We do have to remember here that they are going to have an impact in the world and what better way to start than to exchange and interact (most important) with their future colleagues!!!

  3. Great event for all ages!

    Looking forward to doing it again next year and improving.

    Anyone interested in participating/planning International Education Day (Week?) 2009 please contact David Reichbaum, Megan Crowley or Student Affairs.

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