• A variety of questions asked "UCLA in a Map" participants to mark where in the world they and their family had been. (Photo: Kevin Sprague/UCLA.)

  • A student pins where she's studied abroad. (Photo: Kevin Sprague/UCLA.)

  • Student organizers of "The World at UCLA" ask crowd members questions about their international identities. (Photo: Kevin Sprague/UCLA.)

  • Students in the crowd reflected aloud on the coming together of cultures. (Photo: Kevin Sprague/UCLA.)

A student pins where she's traveled on study abroad. (Photo: Kevin Sprague/UCLA.)

Recognizing the international nature of our campus

A giant map of the world and an open mic night allowed UCLA students to share their global experiences and identities as they celebrated International Education Week 2017.

by Kevin Sprague (UCLA 2018)

UCLA International Institute, December 4, 2017 — For many UCLA Bruins, some of the most important lessons of their college career are learned in internationally focused courses, internships in foreign countries or the classrooms of travel abroad programs. From November 13 through 17, students, faculty and community members celebrated international studies, perspectives and experience during International Education Week, an initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and Education.

At the “UCLA in a Map” event, representatives from the International Student Leadership Coalition and USAC General Representative 2 Office invited fellow students to pin where they were from, where their friends and family came from, where they had travelled, where they had studied abroad and where they planned to visit on an enormous map of the world displayed at Kerckhoff Patio.

Students were invited to write messages after placing their pins on the map. Some opted for facts about their countries of origin, like “Egypt is the home of the Great Pyramids,” or simple messages like “I’m proud to be French!” Others explained the story behind the pins they’d placed on the map. “My family is from Vietnam and China,” wrote one third-year student. In a short time pins, covered nearly every continent on the map, creating a visual showcase of the international scope of the UCLA campus community.

Bruins had another chance to share stories of identity and culture at “The World at UCLA,” an open mic night organized by the Cultural Affairs Commission and the International Student Leadership Coalition, which aimed to engage students from around the world in an open conversation about identity.

The event was led and moderated by organizers from CAC’s The Word, which holds student-run spoken word nights on campus every Wednesday. The stories shared by those who took the microphone ranged from spoken word poetry about gentrification in Carson, to a stand-up comedy act reflecting on the experiences of second-generation Americans, to a musical number that combined Mandarin and French.

Between individual performances and stories, the student organizers of the evening asked members of the audience open-ended questions about race, family and culture to promote group discussion. Students in the crowd shared their own experiences of discovering national and personal identity through sports teams, religion and food, and spoke about the cultures about which they each wanted to learn more in the future.

International students opened up to American students about the difficulties of living far from home, and American students reflected on the impact of interacting with people from other countries and the struggle to define their personal identities. As the event wrapped up and the audience dispersed, members of the crowd continued to discuss the moderator’s questions with one another, carrying questions about nationality and identity and the conversational spirit of “The World at UCLA” with them as they spread across campus.