The University of Florida’s student body includes 6,600 international students, who come from more than 150 countries.
Every year, these students are celebrated through an initiative called International Education Week. Formed by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, the week is meant to encourage the exchange of different cultures and experiences.
“There are hundreds of initiatives and programs and grants that go internationally,” said Mabel Cardec, coordinator of outreach and communications for the UF’s International Center. “We have a lot to show for the university, and now is the time to do it.”
The annual event started on Monday and will conclude on Friday, with various events and activities occurring each day.
UF’s events include panels with the College of Education, the Global Photo Competition Exhibit, information on study abroad opportunities, and the International Educator Awards Ceremony, which took place Monday night and recognizes international educators for their work at the university.
“We like everybody to showcase what they are doing,” Cardec said.
While the International Center provides several services, its main goal is to ease the transition of relocating for its students and offer services that will help them work through cultural barriers.
“There’s a big culture shock,” said Guilherme Arfelli, a UF finance student from São Paulo, Brazil. “Language is the first barrier, but after a while, you get used to it.”
The 21-year-old said he embraces the openness he has felt at UF.
“People are really open here. They’re open to new cultures and new experiences,” Arfelli said. “Some people even try to learn your language, which is really beautiful.”
Spandida Gujrati, a computer science master’s student from India, said the interactions that she has had with fellow students and advisers at the International Center have helped get used to her new home.
“People have been very helpful and interactive,” the 22-year-old said. “I’ve learned a lot about how the people in the [United States] live and work, which is very different than in India.”
Cristiana Panicco, a native of Italy, said she hopes to bring these aspects of diversity and new experiences into students’ lives.
She founded the the Sant’anna Institute, which organizes programs in partnership with American universities, including UF. The partnership provides UF students with opportunities to study abroad, intern and work in Sorrento, Italy.
“The more we live in our little garden, the more closed we become and the more intolerant we are,” said Panicco, who’s also president of the institute. “There are things that are different than what you are normally used to, but you need to realize that different is good, not bad.”