International Week fosters community for international students

International Student Organization (ISO)’s International Week created an environment for St. Olaf’s international students to come together in celebration of their identity, amplify their voices, and highlight the struggles they face. International Week was held from Nov. 29 through Dec. 2 and included a variety of events, including an open mic night, karaoke night, coffee hour, and a viewing of the film “Minari.” 

ISO Co-chairs Shalabha Sandeep ’24 and Paulina Morera Quesada ’24 expressed that International Week was designed to foster community amongst the international students on campus. Morera Quesada said that one of the main goals was “to have a space for the international student community to come together and find each other and connect with each other, but we also wanted to expand that connection to domestic students. We wanted the international community to feel seen, but we also wanted them to connect with others.” Sandeep echoed these remarks, also noting that the week was to bring awareness of the international community’s presence on campus. After almost two years of ISO events being held online, Sandeep said that another goal was “to be very present, [and have] community kind of events where people could see new faces and connect with each other.”

During open mic night, students were given a platform to sing songs and read poems, as well as other talents showcased. A few students also had birthdays that night, so it turned into a sort of birthday celebration. “They sang birthday songs in all the different languages they had friends in and that was a very wholesome moment,” Sandeep said.

 Karaoke night was similar; students sang songs in both English and their first languages. There was a sense of community brewing in the Pause Lair. Everyone cheered on each performer, whether they were singing just for fun or showing off their serious talent. The energy in the room was so vibrant that even one of the Pause tech workers got up to perform. Coffee hour was held in collaboration with Hostile Terrain 94 and allowed more serious conversations about the dangers immigrants face. 

Similarly, the film “Minari” was chosen because it follows the story of a Korean-American family as they navigate their lives as first and second generation immigrants. “We wanted a well balanced roster of events mainly because it is the end of the semester, we don’t want it to be too commitment heavy and we wanted a sense of community but we also wanted to bring attention to the unique challenges of being an international student or just a person from a different country in this country,” Sandeep said.

Morera Quesada agreed. “We wanted it to be very interactive,” Morera Quesada said. “We didn’t want to present events that would be mentally compromising.”

The next ISO event will be International Night in April. Sandeep says that international students should begin planning and preparing for the showcase. Additionally, if they want, they should plan on bringing traditional costumes when they return to campus for interim and the spring semester.

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