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Texas State hosts International Education Week

By Jessica Sinn
University News Service
November 5, 2007

Texas State University-San Marcos will hold its annual International Education Week to recognize and encourage international education exchange Nov. 12-16.

International Education Week (IEW) is a joint initiative by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to raise awareness about the importance of international education.

The celebration of IEW continues to be a grass-roots effort at Texas State

Steven Wilson, Fulbright campus representative and English professor, said IEW provides networking opportunities for international students and allows the university to attract more international scholars.

“I think students should come to International Education Week because it celebrates foreign students and their organizations, and it makes them more visible on campus,” Wilson said.

Among the many IEW events and activities, Wilson will give a presentation for the Texas State faculty about exploring overseas professional development opportunities offered by the Fulbright Program Nov. 14 3:30-5 p.m. in the Alkek Library.

The Fulbright scholarship award is a competitive educational exchange program, designed to provide university students and faculty opportunities to study, teach and research abroad.    The Fulbright Scholarship Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

In 2002, Wilson was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach American Literature in Slovenia.  He said the greatest benefit of the program is having the ability to incorporate the lessons learned from teaching abroad into classroom discussions.  By restructuring his classroom activities to communicate with students in Slovenia, he said he learned how to revitalize his teaching methods.

“It rejuvenated me when I held discussions in the classroom,” Wilson said.  “For faculty members participating in the Fulbright program, teaching abroad is a wonderful experience.  It reminds them why they wanted to be a teacher in the first place.” 

Wilson said he encourages students and faculty to step outside their comfort zones and learn in a new environment where they can interact with people from various cultures.

“As a professor, I spend all day talking to people and I’m used to being able to make myself clear,” Wilson said.  “It was humbling being in a place where I didn’t speak the language and it was a struggle interacting with people.  I think everyone should have that kind of experience because it’s a great way to learn.”

The IEW keynote speaker B.J. Friedman, department of family and consumer sciences professor, will give a presentation about her experience as a Fulbright senior lecturer in Budapest, Hungary Nov. 15 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Flowers 341.

Friedman received a Fulbright scholarship to teach health and nutrition at Semmelweis University in Hungary during the 2007 spring semester.  She said despite what many people might believe, health and nutrition education isn’t any different in Hungary.  She said many of the students and faculty members wanted to learn how to translate terms and concepts of health education in English. 

“I chose the title ‘The Danube Isn’t Blue’ as a metaphor for the myths we have about other countries and cultures, and how people are the same worldwide,” Friedman said.  “We have more in common than we have differences.”

Friedman said living in a new environment and struggling with a language barrier proved to be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. She said she asked her students to stop by and visit with her because she was feeling lonely in a new country and wanted to make friends.  After breaking the ice, she said she developed close friendships with students and other Fulbright scholars. 

“Once I made myself human, everything changed,” Friedman said.  “They didn’t see me as this big shot American; they saw me as someone who wanted to be their friend.”

Friedman said she encourages students and faculty members to immerse themselves in unfamiliar countries to gain new perspectives about other cultures and about themselves. 

“I hope this event will encourage people to participate in any type of international activity, not just the Fulbright program,” Friedman said.  “It’s a great way to learn, not necessarily about a particular academic subject, but to learn more about yourself.” 

For more information about International Education Week, visit www.international.txstate.edu or call (512) 245-7966.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit www.fulbrightonline.org.