The fundamental value of international education
Student performers at the Bruins Around the World event hosted by UCLA Residential Life, International Education Week 2019. (Photos: Guilia PIscitelli.)

The fundamental value of international education

In solidarity with its international students and in affirmation of the value of international education, collaboration and exchange, UCLA celebrates International Education Week 2020 in an online format this year.

By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications

UCLA International Institute, November 9, 2020 — UCLA will observe International Education Week (IEW) — a joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and Education that champions international education and exchange — in a virtual format from November 16 to 20, 2020. It is a challenging time to commemorate IEW, but as a new video and the IEW Featured Events flyer make clear, staff, students and faculty throughout campus are working hard to make it a reality.

The global coronavirus pandemic has upended life around the world, disrupting economies and people’s daily lives and leaving grief and economic dislocation in its wake. The impact on universities has been profound, including their ability to sustain international exchange and collaboration during a public health crisis. To ensure safety and prevent the spread of Covid-19, both in-person classes and residential hall occupancy have been greatly limited at UCLA.

Tightened U.S. visa regulations have made it difficult for international students and visiting scholars to travel to the United States to participate in university life during the pandemic. Bruins hoping to study and/or conduct research abroad this academic year, meanwhile, are facing the disappointment that their plans have been delayed to an unknown future date. The lack of certainty about when conditions will change is challenging for both groups of students.

The organizers of International Education Week at UCLA believe that international education and exchange are more important now than ever, and reaffirm their solidarity with UCLA’s international students and scholars. Led by the UCLA International Institute, the team is comprised of units that directly support those students and scholars, together with all students who participate in study abroad programs and conduct research abroad: the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars, UCLA Residential Life, UCLA Library and UCLA Study Abroad.

In response to new and proposed visa rule changes that are reducing the ability of international students and scholars to participate, study, teach and do research at U.S. universities, the University of California and UCLA have joined numerous other universities in publicly affirming their invaluable contributions to institutions of U.S. higher education (see International Institute statement here).

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is how interconnected the world of the 21st century is. The impacts of Covid-19 are global. The communications technology that is a defining feature of modern social and economic life is making it possible for people the world over to work and study remotely, despite the downsides of isolation and excessive screen time. In fact, the pandemic is just one of many compelling global challenges whose resolution requires global collaboration, including climate change, armed conflict, migration, economic inequity and racial injustice.

Despite current conditions, it is inspiring to see Bruins in great numbers attending remote classes from cities and towns across the U.S. and the world. Many international Bruins are currently living upside-down schedules in their home counties in order to begin or continue their UCLA educations. A number of them are also joining their U.S. peers in actively contributing to student life at UCLA — including student government and other activities — via online means.

We commend UCLA students, faculty and staff for their perseverance in the face of difficult conditions, and recognize that we all long to enjoy our beautiful campus, and one another, in person.

The week ahead

This year’s virtual observance of International Education Week will include traditional events and activities from the past four years of large-scale commemorations of IEW at UCLA. Creative new events adapted for a virtual platform have also been added to the line-up, as seen in the event listings on the IEW website.

As in previous years, the signature event of IEW 2020 will be the annual UCLA Global Conversation. This year Anna Spain Bradley, UCLA vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, will speak on “Global Racism and the Role of Education” on Wednesday, November 18 at 4 p.m., followed by a discussion with Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement.

Student activities during the week — scheduled at times when the greatest number of Bruins can participate, whatever their location — will include a global trivia contest on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7:00 p.m. and a Conversation Café on Saturday, November 21 at 10 a.m. Both events offer an opportunity for American and international UCLA students to engage informally with one another.

And the UCLA International Student Ambassadors Program will offer several International Bruin Spotlights: “Humans of New York”–inspired interviews that highlight how international Bruins impact the UCLA community, how the UCLA community affects them and the legacies they leave behind.

Please explore the IEW website to discover the events and activities planned for the week, together with articles and webinars from around the campus, and join us in commemorating International Education Week at UCLA.