International House gives global students homecoming of their own

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Maya Valluru/Staff

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UC Berkeley’s International House will host its third annual Global Homecoming Sunday to promote discussion and celebration of international culture.

The event gives international students a campus community to celebrate with. It’s an alternative to other homecoming weekend festivities, like football games and Greek life parties, according to campus undergraduate and program assistant Negin Shahiar.

The Global Homecoming will include globally themed fashion shows, a lunchtime discussion of world topics and tours of International House, according to Laurie Ferris, the communications strategist at International House.

While in-country parents and alumni visit campus for homecoming weekend, international students often miss out on homecoming traditions because of logistical difficulties, according to Mahira Ahmed Aly in an email, campus undergraduate and president of the International Students Association.

“I think the international community is not involved in homecoming because of how realistically unfeasible it is for our parents to visit for a weekend,” Aly said in an email. “Most of us fly for 16+ hours to get to Cal from home and it is incredibly expensive, so to ask our parents to spend that much money to fly out here for a homecoming weekend is unrealistic.”

At International House last year, 35 to 50 alumni were present for Global Homecoming, according to Ferris. So far, most returning alumni were locals.

There are more than 23,000 campus alumni living abroad, according to Jose Rodriguez, the campus editorial director of university development and alumni relations. Rodriguez said that although Homecoming offers alumni a chance to revisit campus, most international alumni interact with campus via 22 international alumni clubs across the world.

Other campus organizations, like the Taiwanese Student Association, host events for international students unfamiliar with homecoming culture, according to ASUC senator Lynn Shiung.

In Asia, events like homecoming focus more on the school spirit students themselves, said Shiung.

“Homecoming is more of an American thing,” Shiung said. “We do events … because everyone is doing it and international students aren’t left out. We hope to let them feel more belonging about this school and learn more about the American culture.”

Shiung said that many international students look to become involved in activities on campus, which offer them a chance to build communities and pursue new learning experiences.

For the exchange students in International House, living in the dorms and on campus offers a large community experience. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have as strong a sense of community with their respective universities abroad, according to Shahiar.

“I consider the US home, but I’m excited to see people from all over the world and how they celebrate homecoming,” said Shahiar. “Their parents aren’t gonna come but they’re still getting some sort of homecoming…we’re coming together and finding a sense of community.”

Contact Mary Kelly Ford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.