By Josh Sullivan, Sports Editor
MaryAnne Lustgraaf has seen the Memorial Union Building take on a lot of roles in her time there. It’s been a place that UNH Greek life has been able to call home as well as an open environment for students to be harassed by members of different organizations tabling near Union Court. However, it was only a couple of years ago while working with a few different committees that Lustgraaf decided she wanted to make the MUB a home for international students.
“I just sat down at a meeting for International Education Week (IEW) and said ‘Can’t we make this a bigger deal?’” she said.
From that point, Lustgraaf and her staff transformed the International Education Week from an event that drew 10-20 people to one event that drew as many as 80-90 people, and the event is still growing. What started as an event featuring a couple of seminars and a luncheon, if the students were lucky, has transformed entirely into a week’s worth of guest speakers, music festivals and plenty of food.
“You can eat yourself sick for little to no money all week,” Lustgraaf said.
Events start Saturday, Nov. 15, as the Indian Subcontinent Students’ Association and Student Activity Fee Committee host the Diwali: Festival of Lights, a holiday celebrated in the autumn in India. Tuesday, there’s a Tai Chi and martial arts performance followed by a Chinese buffet, and on Thursday Brian Greaney, head of the Russian desk of foreign services, will host a seminar on the United States and Russia’s relations.
Students Lieu Nguyen and Jeff Lee both got involved with IEW through their residence hall, Fairchild. Nguyen is also the vice president of the Vietnamese Student Organization, and the two students have been a part of organizing the luncheons. While she was happy with the turnout last year, she thinks that more people need to embrace the idea of diversity and give some of the seminars a shot.
“Myself personally, I know that I have a lot of Asian friends here on campus and only a few white friends,” she said. “Everyone’s welcome, and it’s easy to get involved.”
Lee agrees. As a white male, he agreed that it could be intimidating to approach a large group that’s a different race or ethnicity but said that classes should require students to attend for at least one day in order to force students to get out of their comfort zone.
“There’s a certain willingness to do it if it’s required,” he said. “And it’s interesting to meet different people.”
For more information on the event, visit UNH International Education Week on Facebook or find them on Wildcat Link.