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First #You Are Welcome Here Week at Temple

Students and faculty members that showed up in the #YouAreWelcomeHereWeek (Photo Credit: Hoa Nguyen)

Temple’s International Student Affairs office launched its first #YouAreWelcomeHereWeek event in March to celebrate a more inclusive campus atmosphere, and it was so successful that another is already being planned for next year!  A variety of innovative activities throughout the week indicated Temple’s willingness to embrace different ideas and cultures. After the overwhelming success of this first one, the school’s International student department is planning to make #YouAreWelcomeHere Week  an annual event.

“We want to have international and domestic students come together and have a really great time here!” said Rachel Jenkins, Marketing Coordinator for the event and a staff member of the Office of International Affairs at Temple.

Jenkins’ marketing team created many unique marketing strategies for the event to highlight the idea of diversity. In addition to a Snapchat filter that encouraged photographic coverage of the event, the event team also offered students stamp cards, Temple cookies, body paintings and self-designed owl T-shirts to celebrate the idea of Temple as one big, diverse family.

“It is a really good journey to study at Temple,” said Keshav Saraoqi, an Indian international freshman student who’s studying computer science, and who showed up at the event. “I am looking forward to meeting new friends from different cultural backgrounds at Temple”.

Saraoqi enjoys the inclusive campus atmosphere Temple brings to him. “ He said after he finishes his bachelor degree, he will consider staying at Temple for his master degree as well.

A Snapchat filter displaying Philadelphia‘s skyline and Temple University’s Bell Tower on one side, and familiar landmarks from four other countries on the other side was created and showcased on the first day of the kickoff event. Encapsulating the filter is a logo of the event to let international students know they are welcomed here at Temple University.

Since Jessica Sandberg, the Director of International Admissions at Temple University, started a #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign on Twitter in 2016, more than 350 colleges and universities and 60 education groups in America have participated, in an effort to show that the American academic community welcomes international students from all over the world to come to the U.S and pursue their higher education. At a time when immigrants are being increasingly demonized in the media and in politics, the campaign seeks to send a more positive message that expressly values international diversity.

Inspired by Jessica, Leah Hetzell, Assistant Director of International Students Affairs, first came up with the idea of organizing  a week-long event for current international students at Temple in the summer of 2016. This idea was quickly spread and supported by international student leaders and staff from International Affairs in the fall of 2016.

“We really want to do something big here at Temple,” said Hetzell.

The weeklong event included many activities, such as  a kick-off tabling event on Monday, an alumni panel on Tuesday, an international tea party on Wednesday, a two-minute talk event on Thursday and a global gala on Friday. According to Hetzell, this event is not exclusively for international students, but seeks to welcome domestic students and faculty members at Temple University as well.

Photo Credit: Hoa Nguyen

Adini Parikh, a domestic student from the College of Liberal Arts who showed up to the event, stated that she appreciates the presence of her international peers and a diversified campus experience since it can not only promote a sense of belongingness for  international students, but also provides a wider view of the world to domestic students.

“They are really sweet, I love them,” said Adini. “I feel happy to study at a college where it accepts anyone no matter where they come from.”

Each event was crafted to be internationally diverse in and of itself. For example, students from eight different countries volunteered to participate in  the international tea party on Wednesday at Morgan Hall. Eight tea tables representing mainland China, Taiwan, Russia, Japan, South America, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bangladesh were set up at the tea party.

“I think it is really cool to hold an event that showcases the differences in all the culture’s teas!” said Ashley Phifer, Administrative Coordinator of Temple’s Confucius institute. Phifer is an American Confucius Institute Staff member, who was at the tea event to help with the Chinese table and to introduce Chinese tea culture to guests that came by.

For Phifer and some of her colleagues, tea seems to be an ideal entry point for people from different countries to exchange and embrace each other’s culture.

The week was ended perfectly on Friday, with a “Global Gala” that celebrated international cultures through performances, food, and tabling by international student organizations. Hetzell told me in a later interview that the  event was met with positive feedback from both students and faculty members. “Of course a more formal assessment will be done afterwards to see what can be improved.” Said Leah, “This week is a starting point, we will continue to do the week-long series of events in the future.”

Faculty members like Jessica and Leah affirm the value of international students at Temple. According to Leah, this event is a great example of the exchange of different cultures that characterizes Temple, and successfully informed international students about the opportunities they have here at Temple.

“It’s incredible to see some of the international students grow and learn to take every opportunity that Temple has to offer, ” said Hetzell.

Photo Credit: Hoa Nguyen