Memorial Union Flag Ceremony celebrates international students

Ceremony held on Nov. 13, kicks off International Education Week.

Students, faculty and guests who walk through the Memorial Union concourse will be greeted by a display of world flags. The countries that are represented cover all reaches of the globe and show the strong presence of where students at Oregon State University come from. 

Between Nov. 13 and 17, schools all across the country will be celebrating International Education Week, and OSU is no exception. The International Flag Ceremony is the kick-off event to the week that will be held on Monday, Nov. 13 in the MU main lounge at 4 p.m.

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“The International Flag Ceremony is something that was started a few years ago and it was a way to bring attention to the fact that we have so many international students, scholars and faculty on campus, and these flags represent all the countries these students, scholars and faculty members come from across the world,” said Kimberly Lamke Calderon, the marketing and communications director for International Programs.

The flags along the MU concourse show diversity within the student population in the OSU community, as well as the efforts that the school is putting in to highlight global perspectives, according to Lamke Calderon. The ceremony emphasizes the idea that the flags overhead are more than just colorful decorations, but represent world cultures. 

“When I saw the flags at the MU, I immediately looked for my own flag. When I saw it, I felt a sense of pride. Although I am in America, the Netherlands is still my home,” Simon Struijk, an international student studying economics, said in an email. “I think both the domestic, as well as the international students benefit from living and studying in an environment in which all sorts of belief systems and cultures are represented.”

The flags are hung and presented throughout the year for all to see, but a few weeks before the ceremony, they are taken down, leaving the hall empty.

“When we take down the flags in the MU Concourse, you can feel how bare and blank the space is without the colors and energy of the flags. This moment gives the community a chance to reflect on what international student diversity brings to our campus,”Julianna Betjemann, director of student experience at INTO OSU, said via email. “These flags honor our diverse global student population and celebrate Oregon State’s global community.”

Every year, OSU welcomingly opens its doors to students from all areas of the world to engage in a university experience both in the U.S. and in Oregon, according to Lamke Calderon. 

“We want to recognize the contributions (international students) bring to the campus as well as the fact that it is a pretty big thing,” Lamke Calderon said. “It’s a big risk to not only go to a university outside of their country, but to commit to that for four or more years. To travel away from home, often away from the language they grew up with and to come here, we want them to feel as welcomed as possible and to help celebrate that they did take a big risk.”

According to Betjemann, international students bring a new perspective of seeing the world that can enhance individuals’ thoughts and beliefs. Everyone has a voice represented that creates a rich learning environment on the OSU campus and beyond.

“We live in a complex global world where impacts are not isolated. College is a time for learning to see issues from multiple perspectives, and to use new perspectives to inform your thinking, actions and solutions. These skills are developed and enhanced by studying and learning in a vibrant, diverse environment,” Betjemann said in an email. “International students attending OSU bring perspective from other cultures, national practices, value systems and ways of thinking and doing.”

Gibran Santa Cruz is an international student in the College of Business who came to OSU from Mexico. He chose the school because of its philosophy and culture. 

“I liked that the clubs, organizations and different scholar departments are diverse enough to offer the domestic and international students the opportunity to become part of the university,” Santa Cruz said via email.

Santa Cruz has enjoyed having a new experience outside his home country, but thinks it is important to also spread awareness about his own culture with members of the OSU community so they can learn about his country.

“Mexico has a very rich culture and I think the university may need more activities to let the students know about what the Mexican culture has offered to the world,” Santa Cruz said in an email. “I hope I can encourage the people to learn a little more about the Mexican culture and travel there to live an amazing experience.”

According to Lamke Calderon, experiencing diversity is one of the most valuable parts of attending a university. It can help an individual understand the different cultures of the world and appreciate each individual’s unique contributions. International students expand world knowledge within the community. 

The International Flag Ceremony is open to all students, both domestic and international, as well as all members of the OSU and Corvallis community, according to Lamke Calderon. International students can take away from the event that they are welcome at OSU and may feel at home. Domestic students are given the opportunity to have an international experience without having to leave the U.S. just by interacting with students from other countries, Lamke Calderon added. 

“We want to highlight the fact that having all of those cultures and all of those nations represented on our campus brings an incredible amount of diversity,” Lamke Calderon said.