Update: The Cranwell International Center annual spring social was postponed this year due to the snowfall.  This year’s theme for the Valentine’s Day event is “Love around the World.”  The event has been rescheduled for Friday, Feb. 28, 6-8 p.m. in Squires Old Dominion Ballroom. 

In the five months since he was appointed director of Cranwell International Center, Brian Bolton said he has learned that international students at Virginia Tech have a real passion for coming together to observe and maintain their home-country traditions. 

“That includes sharing those celebrations, commemorations, practices, and art forms and with the rest of the Hokie community,” Bolton said. “Our community is blessed with a diverse population of international students who are enthusiastic about sharing their worldviews, and I’m pleased that more and more domestic students are coming forward to get involved in events and programs where they can enjoy meaningful interaction together.”

One such event will take place on Valentines Day, Friday, Feb. 14, when Cranwell International Center hosts its annual spring social. This year’s theme is “Love around the World.”

In advance of the celebration of cultures, international students were asked to answer the question, “What do you love about your home country?” and to contribute photos illustrating their responses.  

One student wrote, “The cultural interactions that have helped to maintain peace, love, and harmony in the country.” 

Another said, “In my home country Saint Lucia, most of all the people are warm and friendly, its summer all year round, and my favorite thing is watching the sunset over the ocean from the beach.” 

Another wrote, “Everything: people, food, language, historical places.”

The images and answers will be displayed in a slide show at the event. There will be food from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Participants are invited to wear their country’s traditional attire. 

Karen Howe, community liaison at Cranwell, is organizing the event. “We are creating a space where relationships can be built, and providing an opportunity for our volunteers to do what they do best.”

Minoka Gunesekera graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a B.A. in urban affairs and planning. She is working with the Newman Community in Housing and Residence Life and will begin divinity school at Duke University next fall. Her parents came to Virginia Tech from Sri Lanka as international students in 1984.

“Many American families are now a part of our family because of their generosity towards making my parents welcomed in Blacksburg,” Gunesekera said. “When Cranwell was established in 1986, my family became volunteers. Being at Cranwell events as a child gave me an outlet to feel included and alike, when sometimes at school I was very different from the other kids.” 

Gunesekera is co-leading one of Cranwell’s global conversation groups this spring. “It’s my way of thanking the Cranwell community for helping my family plant roots in a town we dearly love,” she said.

Erica Wood of Cumming, Ga., a senior majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is an intern at Cranwell International Center. “Whether you are an international or domestic student, diverse environments such as this expose you to other cultures and ways of thinking. In our globalized world, it is so important that we are able to converse and work with people from around the world. This event is a rare opportunity to practice,” Wood said. 

“It's also a unique time to learn about your own understanding of the world. Whenever I attend an event with international students I always quickly reflect on what I've learned. Sometimes I realize that my perception of something was completely off. Oftentimes I realize that my beliefs or behaviors are actually more similar to others than I thought.”

“We all live in a world that is increasingly interconnected,” said Bolton. “It goes without saying that in order for today’s university graduates to excel in the global economy, it’s essential for them to be culturally fluent.  They need to understand where others are coming from, both literally and metaphorically.  On a more basic level, exposure to international perspectives affords us the opportunity to delight in a fuller experience of the sheer joy of human existence – in the myriad forms it takes. All of our lives are enriched by the culture our international students bring with them to Virginia Tech.”

For more information on “Love Around the World” and other programs at Cranwell International Center, contact Karen Howe.



Written by Sandy Broughton.
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