For Olatz Roa, the most difficult part of coming to the United States has been trying to make jokes in English.
The first-year pharmacy graduate student came to the University of Florida in August from northern Spain, where she was one of two students at her university who was offered a spot at an American university. Roa has since begun to adjust to life in Gainesville, and has joined student organizations that have allowed her to connect to her fellow international students.
To bring awareness and appreciation to students like Roa, UF will be hosting its annual International Education Week from Nov. 16-20. IEW is a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, and colleges all across the country are scheduled to participate.
UF’s individual colleges will host their own events throughout the week that highlight their international activity. These events include the UF Latin American Film Festival, a presentation by the Peace Corps and study abroad information sessions. IEW will also feature an awards ceremony for outstanding international educators and international students.
The theme of this year’s IEW is “UF Rising Globally,” which is an extension of President Kent Fuchs’ campaign of “UF Rising” to national preeminence.
“The point we want to make with that is to be a truly top-10 preeminent university, we’ve got to be a global university,” said Leonardo Villalón, the dean of the UF International Center. “Our reach can no longer be just the United States, either in terms of who we reach, who we teach and the research we do.”
The UFIC has committed to this focus by spending over $7 million in international programs and developing seven new study abroad programs this year, according to the International Center’s 2014-2015 annual report.
UF now has over 6,000 international students, which is almost double the international enrollment of 10 years ago, according to the UFIC report. Of these 6,000, about 3,500 are graduate students and another 1,500 are doing practical training after having received their degree. Students from China and India represent the largest portions of UF’s international population, according to the report.
The UFIC, located in the Hub on Stadium Road, helps students with everything from filing their legal paperwork to providing support when they are feeling homesick.
“It’s a big transition to go abroad and go to another country, another language, another culture,” Villalón said. “We do everything possible to help them be successful in this endeavor.”
Villalón said that the goal of IEW is to raise awareness of UF’s various international dimensions and to educate students on the importance of being good global citizens. This is important, he said, because some students will soon be living all over the world and competing for jobs in the international market.
The city of Gainesville itself has also embraced international citizens and their cultures.
There are about 15,000 non-U.S. citizens currently living in the city, which accounts for over 11 percent of the population, according to Gainesville’s 2014 Citizen’s Report,
Gainesville is also part of a sister city program with nine cities across the world including Duhok, Iraq; Jacmel, Haiti; and Novorossiisk, Russia. The Sister City Program of Gainesville, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, that connects Gainesville residents with people around the world for culture, education and business.