Recognize International Students

6 min read

| By Gale Staff |

International Students’ Day is Friday, November 17. Rooted in a tragic history, the holiday commemorates a decisive moment in modern history and provides an important opportunity to discuss the value of global diversity on your campus. The Institute of International Education (IIE) states that nearly 1 million international students are enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions. These students come to the United States out of a desire to learn from some of the best institutions in the world while enriching American classrooms with their customs, languages, and perspectives. Some students remain in the United States after graduating, though many return home, creating valuable cultural connections. Experts agree—international students contribute to a more inclusive, vibrant, and economically viable campus.

International Students Day represents several momentous occasions throughout history. The first was the November 17, 1939, anti-Nazi protest in Prague. On the same date in 1973, an anti-dictatorial student protest at Greece’s Athens Polytechnic came to a violent climax. On International Students’ Day in 1989, Czechoslovakian riot police suppressed a student-led protest against the country’s Communist Party, a demonstration that ultimately sparked a non-violent transition of government called the Velvet Revolution. International Students Day continues to be an important platform by which students advocate for their right to have a voice and equal access to education.

Academic librarians can use Gale Academic OneFile to highlight International Students’ Day this fall and catalyze awareness and support for international students. Share how it began and celebrate the international students on your campus. You and your students can find considerable scholarly content for these topics and any others using Gale Academic OneFile. Gale’s academic databases house a diverse collection of content, including journal articles, videos, news pieces, and more. Plus, you can filter results to showcase resources from international publications, presenting a range of perspectives on any given research query. Users can even translate any article into over 40 languages at the click of a button. Whatever your goal, Gale Academic OneFile is designed to serve the varied needs of your diverse student body.

Explore the Holiday’s Foundations

In 1939, as the Nazi party expanded its influence and control throughout Europe, a group of students from Prague’s Medical Faculty at Charles University protested against the violent regime. In response, the Nazis killed a young medical student, a man named Jan Opletal. That student’s funeral on November 15 became a platform for thousands of college students to express anti-Nazi sentiments and national pride. As a result, on November 17th, 1939, the Nazis executed nine students, imprisoned more than 1,200 other students in concentration camps, and shut down all Czechoslovakian universities.

In honor of that sacrifice, the London-based International Students’ Council established the first official International Students’ Day in 1941. It remains a public holiday in parts of Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Greece, recognizing the role of higher education and international solidarity in the struggle for freedom and democracy. It’s a moment to honor those students who bravely and peacefully spoke out against oppression to defend their right to education.

Raise Awareness for Global Student Diversity

International students contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and bolster the country’s competitive standing in science, math, and technology. Plus, these individuals are uniquely poised to bring an open, curious mind to their new surroundings. As such, welcoming students from around the world to U.S. campuses is an essential component of global diplomatic efforts.

The presence of international students on U.S. campuses can also increase domestic student competitiveness in the job market. To become successful in a growing global economy, U.S. graduates must demonstrate an aptitude for working with others across various linguistic and cultural barriers. Befriending and learning from international students provides an ideal opportunity to develop these crucial competencies.

Celebrate International Students on Campus

Simply recruiting international students to enroll at your school is just the first step. From there, your campus community must find ways to welcome and support them. Studying abroad is a challenging endeavor. Living away from home and in an entirely new culture is both exciting and stressful. There are language barriers, visa bureaucracies, and social hurdles to navigate. Universities must invest in strategic ways to integrate international students into campus life. Use International Students’ Day as a platform to celebrate and increase support for international students all year round.

Host an International Students’ Night

Most campuses house specific student-led cultural organizations. Connect with your school’s central international student organization or department to leverage their networks. Then, invite student groups to participate in an international students’ night. Participants are encouraged to share their cultural heritage through different mediums, whether song, dance, food, art, or musical performance. You might even sell tickets to raise money for international student scholarship funds. However, it’s crucial to give autonomy to the student groups over the decisions and planning of such events. Ultimately, they get to choose what and how to share their culture with others on campus.

Highlight Inclusivity Resources

Make and share a resource, like a website or printed directory, which outlines DEI resources on campus, specifically highlighting those most relevant to international students. Consider additional campus and community services for English language learners, such as free or low-cost tutoring. Make a list of nearby religious organizations, particularly those that provide a space for cross-cultural worship. Other essential resources include public transportation options, as many international students do not have a license or a car.

Create a Historical Display

Develop a visual display for your library featuring those students who lost their lives during the protests in Prague on November 17, 1939: Josef Matoušek, Jaroslav Klíma, Jan Weinert, Josef Adamec, Jan Černý, Marek Frauwirt, Bedřich Koukala, Václav Šafránek, and František Skorkovský. You might also feature other important historical moments when students stood against tyranny and fought for their right to learn without borders. With Gale Academic OneFile, you can find news articles, images, and even videos to support your project.

Share International Student Voices

Ask for international student volunteers to share their own journey as a student on your campus. What has surprised them about American students? What have been their personal challenges and achievements? Ask them what campus members can do to make their study abroad experience more accessible. Collect these stories, whether through writing, audio, or video. With their permission, share these stories on social media or through other library networks.

Campus leaders may also recruit American student ambassadors to help bridge the gap between domestic and international students. To achieve the full potential that international students offer, university staff must prioritize genuine conversations and relationships among its global student body.

Celebrate International Students’ Day and help improve your campus’s research and learning quality this Fall. With Gale Academic OneFile, you can feel confident in the scholarship and accuracy of your resources. If your academic institution isn’t a current subscriber, you can learn more by visiting our website.

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