International Education Week highlights importance of cultural exchange

Chinese lion dancing at SF State

The Confucius Institute at San Francisco State will present a number of Chinese cultural activities during International Education Week, which includes kung fu demonstrations and Chinese lion dancing.

Several events celebrating culture, diversity planned for Nov. 13-17

It’s been one year since the last International Education Week (IEW), a worldwide celebration of cultural diversity, international education and cultural exchange, and the United States has undergone a dramatic transformation. Since taking office last November, President Trump has moved the nation in a more protectionist direction with his "America first" agenda, according to Jay Ward, associate director of San Francisco State University’s Office of International Programs. Recognizing the contributions of international educational exchange is critical to advancing as a nation, he added.

“Isolating ourselves from the rest of the world and taking care of our own first does not help solve the world’s problems,” Ward said. “The world’s problems can only be solved by dialogue, negotiation and learning about your neighbors and having cultural exchanges.” International Education Week is an important reminder of that. San Francisco State’s 18th annual celebration runs from Nov. 13 through 17 and involves the entire campus community.

Some of this year’s unique events include a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a cricket lesson, a lecture by prominent Japanese diplomat Tomochika Uyama on Japanese-California trade relations and a presentation by an agency involved in the reconstruction of Japan after the massive 2011 earthquake. There are also film screenings, a Study Abroad Fair, music and dance performances from multicultural student groups and international food festivals.

International students are an important part of the University community and represent 90 nations. More than 1,600 international students currently attend SF State, and that includes 1,294 students earning degrees, 26 in certificate programs, 241 enrolled in a cultural exchange program and 113 in the American Language Institute. The University is a national leader in sending traditionally underrepresented students on study abroad programs and has more recipients of the U.S. State Department's Benjamin Gilman Scholarship — awarded to students of limited financial means for overseas study — than any other institution in the U.S. Ward is quick to clarify that the festivities are not just about international students or studying abroad. “We look at IEW as an opportunity to celebrate our campus diversity, so that includes immigrant students and faculty and international research,” he said.

International Education Week was first celebrated in 2000 as a joint-initiative of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Education. Now, more than 100 nations participate in the celebration. For more information or to view the complete International Education Week calendar, visit