Temple University students learned about different cultures during the fifth annual You Are Welcome Here Week, a week of events that International Student Affairs hosted from Nov. 1 through Nov. 5 aiming to promote diversity and bring international students together.
“That whole goal and idea behind You Are Welcome Here Week is to ensure that the international community feels welcomed at Temple, but it’s more than just a slogan for us to put on a flyer,” said Leah Hetzell, the director of the Office of International Student Affairs.
YAWH Week was inspired by the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign on social media, which started in 2016 when StudyGroup — a program helping international students gain entrance to American, European and Australian universities — posted a YouTube video reaffirming international students’ place in higher education, Hetzell added.
YAWH Week began on Monday, Nov. 1, with the YAWH Kickoff at the Bell Tower from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., where students were asked trivia questions about holidays from other cultures and wrote postcards welcoming international students.
The postcards will be distributed to international students at the start of the Spring 2022 and Fall 2022 semesters, and aim to help them feel accepted since they are being welcomed by U.S. students while teaching U.S. students about the international community, said Alexa Duffy, the student services assistant for the Center for American Language and Culture.
Welcoming international students at Temple is important because it shows that the university values them and encourages them to embrace life in Philadelphia, she added.
“My favorite part about this week is just getting students aware of the international community here at Temple and getting them excited,” Duffy said. “Getting them involved and seeing all of the different cultural events. Coming together is really rewarding.”
Directly after the kickoff event on Tuesday, International Student Affairs hosted Memorable Moments: Tales from Afghanistan from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Howard Gittis Student Center. At the event, students learned about Afghan culture through their cuisine, according to the YAWH Week flyer.
Also on Tuesday, students got together for International Coffee Hour at the Student Center Underground, where they discussed German culture. At Explore The Art Of Tai Chi Ch’uan: “The Grand Ultimate Fist” on Wednesday, students received a basic lesson in Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art. Students also enjoyed Temple Lingo on Thursday, an event that taught students basic greetings in other languages.
YAWH Week came to a close on Friday with the Global Gala in the Student Center, which featured several student organizations, free food from different cultures and performances from students.
Dynamic Afrique, an African dance team, also performed at the gala, along with Ramajay, a West Indian dance company and Temple’s Irish Dance Team. Haweh Kwaidah, a junior biology major and president of Dynamic Afrique, sang “Talking to the Moon” by Bruno Mars and “Somebody You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi.
Raameen Khan ran Humanity First’s booth at the gala to recruit new members. Humanity First is Temple’s chapter of Humanity First USA, which provides disaster relief and medical aid around the world, and hosts on-campus community service events like food and clothing drives.
Khan hopes that bringing international students into Temple’s Humanity First chapter will allow them to learn more about Philadelphia while helping people, said Khan, a sophomore neuroscience major and president of Humanity First.
As president of the Brazilian Student Association, Matheus Fronza brought his organization to the gala so he could continue to learn about other cultures while educating people about Brazilian culture. The organization handed out brigadeiros, Brazilian chocolates covered in sprinkles, and asked trivia questions about Brazil, he said.
“It’s a very typical Brazilian food, doesn’t matter the region,” said Fronza, a senior Latin American studies major from Santa Catarina, Brazil. “So we thought it would be nice to have it here for people to try.”
Being an international student has given him a chance to meet new people and expose himself to new ways of life, Fronza added.
Around 5 p.m Friday Hai-Lung Dai, the vice president of the Office of International Affairs, gave a speech about supporting international students and the resources available to them before ceding the stage to student performers.
By immersing students in culture through dance and food, YAWH Week helps students connect and break down stereotypes they may have about other cultures, Hetzell said.
“If we learn about each other and learn about the world then we grow and we become more inclusive along the way,” Hetzell added.