I Am Global Week celebrates diversity and cultural exchange at Brandeis
The week-long series of events included cultural shows, foreign-language dinners, and a “Global Bazaar.”
I Am Global Week took place Nov. 12-20 and featured a variety of programming that aimed to celebrate Brandeis’ global community and promote cultural exchange on campus.
I Am Global Week is Brandeis’ version of International Education Week, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Education and Department of State that celebrates “global awareness, cultural exchange, and learning across the United States,” per the I.E.W. website.
Brandeis is unique among many institutions in the greater Boston area when it comes to its wealth of diversity and global presence. According to the U.S. News & World Report, Brandeis ranks seventh among U.S. national universities for its percentage of international students, who make up 20% of the student population. Brandeis’s fall 2021 enrollment profile indicates that there are over 58 countries represented within its international student population.
According to International Students and Scholars Office Associate Director Adrea Papadopoulos, this makes it all the more important to “celebrate our international community and bring awareness to the diversity we have on campus,” she said in an interview with the Justice on Nov. 17.
Papadopoulos described the process of planning for I Am Global Week as an “effort that stretches across the Brandeis campus.” Though the ISSO facilitates outreach and coordinates the calendar at large, Papadopoulos emphasized the role of University departments and student groups in putting together various cultural events and showcasing their work during I Am Global Week.
The week kicked off on Nov. 12 with Brandeis’ South Asian Student Association’s 25th annual MELA, a cultural event that, according to the I Am Global Week webpage, “aims to celebrate the rich and vibrant culture of the nine countries of South Asia.” Brandeis students and families packed Levin Ballroom for the twice-sold-out show to see a variety of classical and fusion dances, musical performances, and a fashion show featuring traditional clothing. The theme of this year’s MELA was Yatra, a Malayalam word that represents the idea of journey. A graphic posted to the SASA Instagram explains the significance of this theme: “It is in these journeys that our lives intertwine and while our shared journeys may never be the same, it is in these differences that we can learn and grow from each other as both individuals and as a community as a whole.”
MELA also sought to raise funds for Ghedora-Connects, a non-profit organization supporting Sri Lanka through its current economic crisis. According to Human Rights Watch, the crisis, which began in 2019 and intensified in March of this year, has driven many Sri Lankans into poverty and inflamed protests against the government. Many of these protests have been subject to violent government crackdowns.
Other events hosted by cultural groups during I Am Global Week included Club Cantonese @ Brandeis’ annual culture show Yum Cha, held on Nov. 19, as well as Africa’s Best, Brandeis African Student Organization’s fashion show held on Nov. 20.
Another major event of I Am Global Week was the All-Language Dinner that took place in Levin Ballroom on Nov. 16. Sponsored by the World Languages & Cultures Committee and the Division of Humanities, the dinner was a way for students to “experience and celebrate the linguistic diversity of Brandeis,” according to the I Am Global Week webpage. Students sat at tables organized by language and shared conversations over dinner and traditional snacks from each country. The 11 languages featured at the dinner were Arabic, Mandarin, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish. Prior to entering the room, students took a “language pledge” promising not to speak English.
The Global Bazaar held on Nov. 17 offered student organizations and campus departments an opportunity to set up tables as a tangible representation of “the countless ways in which our community is global.” The event featured food, games, trivia, music, and traditional clothing. Over 20 groups participated in the event, including the International Business School, the ISSO, the Chinese Language Program, and the French Club. Students also represented individual countries such as Brazil and Mongolia.
Other notable events included the I Am Global Week Kickoff event held in the SCC on Nov. 14, as well as the international candy tasting event that took place in the blue sheds in Fellows Garden on Nov. 15. Other events were more academic in nature, including a town hall on U.S.-China relations that took place on Nov. 16 and a panel discussion about supporting refugees that took place on Nov. 17. Global Fellows also organized food drives supporting Healthy Waltham and FRESH.
Beyond celebrating and bringing awareness to the global presence and diversity on campus, Papadopoulos emphasized the role of I Am Global Week in allowing international students to connect with each other. “It’s really important … because it’s their support network in a lot of ways. That ranges from the Global Bazaar in terms of allowing student organizations to really highlight who they are and their contributions to the global campus at Brandeis, to the Cultural Connections through Storytelling event that … provided them [international students] a really nice way to listen to each other, [and] also to have opportunities to share their own stories.”
Many Global Fellows, who, according to the I Am Global Week webpage, are student leaders that work with the ISSO to promote “international education, the integration of international and domestic students, and awareness of global issues” echoed Papadopoulos’ sentiments.
In an interview with the Justice on Nov. 17, Dorji Kyi MA ’25, a Global Fellow and graduate student at the Heller School, stated, “This is a really good opportunity for me to [get to] know more people, to make more friends … I think that was the best part [of I Am Global Week] for me.”
Papadopoulos also highlighted the role of the Global Fellows in planning I Am Global Week. “It would not have been possible to do this whole week without them,” she said. “They contributed … in terms of their ideas for events we could do, ideas that they could do during Global Bazaar … the Global Fellows really provided that student voice throughout the week.”
This student involvement and the amplification of student voices is something Papadopoulos hopes to further in future I Am Global Weeks: “I would like to continue to see so much positive student engagement, because they really make I Am Global Week happen,” she said. “[We hope to continue] that collaboration with students ... I’d like to spend a bit more time in terms of meeting with students and finding out what other ways we can really share their stories and voices on campus.”
Though I Am Global Week lasted only a week, it successfully highlighted Brandeis’ vibrant international community and wealth of cultural diversity, and the University’s commitment to creating a more inclusive, welcoming environment for all.