International Week is one of the many traditions that occur at Rocky Mountain College. It is a week-long event organized by Amber West Martin, the Director of International Programs, and the Rocktivities staff. The event celebrates the many international students who attend Rocky and serves to educate students about the diverse cultures that are currently on campus.
“We have a global world, and it’s important for us to be globally aware,” said Martin. “A way we are able to become aware is through International Week. It’s an opportunity to gain a more global perspective.”
The cultures being celebrated this semester include Irish, German, Polynesian, Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latin. Each culture gets high- lighted a certain day of the week. During this time the meals in McDonalds Commons correspond with the culture, a traditional activity takes place during the lunch hour, and in the evening the coffee shop stays open late to serve specialty drinks from around the globe. However, this RMC tradition was not always so elaborate.
Prior to all the activities and educational aspects that occur with the event, International Week used to be less of a celebration and more of a task. The international students would prepare a dish from their home country and students on campus would eat what had been prepared. That was as far as cultural education would go. When Martin began her career at Rocky, she took notice of this and did not like what she saw. Neither the international students nor the native students were gaining any sense of culture just by eating a foreign food. Martin decided that change needed to occur and made her vision a reality by teaming up with Cara Lorhenz, the Director of Student Affairs at the time.
Hosting an international film festival was the team’s first attempt at trying to add an educational perspective to the event. Unfortunately, it was not as successful as they anticipated it would be. Martin and Lorhenz evaluated what worked well and what did not. From here, they brainstormed what an international week may look like and put their plan into action in the spring semester of 2014. Their ideas included cultural-themed dinners that would last throughout the week, rather than just having one international dinner. Martin listened to student concerns and addressed them. When students expressed there was nothing to do in the evenings, Martin suggested implementing an international coffee house after the dinner hour. This model of international week is the one that has been used for the past three years, with each event becoming more successful than the last.
“We want to break down barriers and help facilitate a further understanding of one another, but also show that we are a community of individual learners as well as a community of group learners,” stated Martin. She went on to say, “that is the beauty of a college campus. It is a place where you can get so much diversity. You can’t permanently break away into a subgroup and never interact with your peers. Being on campus gives us the unique opportunity to look a little deeper at who we are and what we are.”