On April 21st, students, faculty, and staff gathered in Abel Commons to celebrate the international students who have studied at Nebraska Wesleyan this academic year. Exchange students from Spain, France, Mexico, Japan, Italy, England, and Ireland had the opportunity to end their experience at the university with the first annual international graduation ceremony. The event was hosted by Sarah Barr, the Director of Global Engagement, Yoko Iwasaki-Zink, the International Student Advisor, and members of the International Relations Organization (IRO).
The ceremony opened with a moving speech from IRO President Syble Heffernan.
“It has been my great honor and joy to come to know each of these outstanding individuals who will walk across the stage today. […] I have been so grateful to get to know each of them and call them my friends, sharing moments from bonfires, haunted houses, zoo trips, and Halloween parties, to cheering on the Huskers, having fun in the Haymarket, and finding our inner child at trampoline parks. I have especially loved watching the way each of them has grown and made connections over their time here and seeing the close family that they have all become.”
Heffernan then gave the floor to Lucas Décorne, a French exchange student, speaking on behalf of all the international students.
“It has been a year for some of us, a semester for others, living here in Nebraska, a state we didn’t know about before being selected to come here. However, we all consider it as our second home and we are so grateful for the opportunity we’ve been given to study here, and we hope that the future international students will love Wesleyan as much as we do.”
Nebraska Wesleyan President Darrin Good also attended the event and applauded the international students’ idea to host such an event. He explained, “Out of the blue, just a few weeks ago, students signed up for my office hours, and you never know what they are going to come and bring to you, and sometimes you have to say no. And sometimes you get a great idea like this that’s brought to you by two of our international students, asking if we can have this celebration as many of them won’t have a formal graduation.”
Then, one by one, international students went on stage and were given their diplomas by President Good. Together, as tradition dictates, they crossed the Wesleyan arch to celebrate the end of their adventure at Wesleyan.
The festivities did not stop there. After the ceremony, students and faculty enjoyed the Spring celebration. Organized by the Modern Languages Department and IRO, the event celebrated every country represented at Wesleyan through fun games and activities. At the French table, you could enjoy French candies and play a little trivia. Dr. Rula Jabbour at the Syrian table had prepared fantastic Syrian dishes, and so did Dr. Kelly Bauer for the Chilean table. You could also practice using chopsticks at the Japanese table, or learn about the student organization NWU Latinos.
Both these events were an opportunity for the NWU community to celebrate its diversity and its passion to learn more about the world and its countless cultures and traditions. This enthusiasm will continue to thrive over the years through our professors of languages, IRO members and officers, and new international students.