International Education Week celebrates cultural diversity at Suffolk

Suffolk’s International Student Services presented International Education Week, a series of events that serve as “an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education,” as described by the Suffolk University ISSO. The events started on Nov. 12 and lasted through Nov. 14.

The events aimed to have staff and students at Suffolk exchange stories, experiences, and ideas about studying abroad, coming from another country to the U.S., as well as discuss how an international education has enriched their lives. Events included an opportunity for students in Boston to connect with the students in Madrid via Skype, attending a fair where food from around the world was served, as well as an evening gathering at the Donahue Cafe where all guests were asked to share their “global story”.

The meeting focused on questions like “What does it mean to be an innovative global thinker? How have the international experiences that you’ve experienced at Suffolk changed you?” Chairs arranged in a circle provided guests with a friendly experience to hear the personal descriptions of students, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as professors and staff at Suffolk.

Boston students skype with students at the Madrid campus
(Photo courtesy of Suffolk ISSO’s Facebook)

“I am originally from Saudi Arabia,” Sawyer Business School graduate student Zaher Alghanem shared. “For most people, I don’t think they really know that Saudi Arabia is a very diversified country. I thought I had gotten a good exposure to different cultures and schools of thoughts, but when I got to the U.S., it was a totally different experience.” Alghanem had also been employed by a diverse banking company in Saudi Arabia, where he worked with people from over seven different countries.

“Even though I didn’t want to admit it to myself,” Alghanem said, “I did feel homesick. Later on, it got better as I interacted with others more. It ended up being such a great experience, that after I finished my undergrad here at Suffolk, I decided to extend it.”

Professor and Vice Provost for Student Success Sebastian Royo spoke of his transition from Spain. “I came to the U.S. as a graduate student, and coming here has changed my life in every possible way. But definitely in a good way, since you can see that I stayed here and didn’t go back to Spain.”

In contrast to Alghanem, Royo described his home country as “very homogeneous, where little to no immigration existed, and where people of color were rare.”

“I grew up in a very sheltered environment,” Royo said, “but coming here was transforming after being exposed to so much diversity. It opened my mind that there was another world out there, another way of looking at problems and of doing things. It’s one of the things that I value the most.”

Kathleen Sparaco, director of international programs and services, led the event. “Part of the reason why we wanted to have this discussion is because the focus of Suffolk’s strategic plan is to develop global thinkers,” Sparaco said, “And it’s a very high sounding concept, but it affects us in very personal ways. So we wanted to have this conversation to share these experiences.”