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SUNY Canton celebrates global focus

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CANTON — SUNY Canton celebrated a global focus with its first International Education Week, part of a nationwide initiative to promote awareness of the world’s cultures.

Students sampled Polish perogis, Chinese egg rolls and other global specialties while reggae music played at Thursday’s Culture Fest. Earlier in the week, a professor from China and students from Sri Lanka and Cameroon presented their experiences.

The week is a sign of the college’s growing international interests, said Marela Fiacco, SUNY Canton’s Director of International Programs.

SUNY Canton now has 35 international students on campus, and about 30 more taking classes online, compared to none eight years ago. About 12 SUNY Canton students have studied abroad this year.

Ms. Fiacco said studying abroad is more important than ever, with globalization making an international focus a must.

She is from Croatia, and came to America as part of a study-abroad program when she was a student.

“I know what it’s like, I know the value in it, the opportunities and doors that it opens,” she said.

International Education Week events are held across the country, part of an initiative between the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education.

Pierre Nzuah came to SUNY Canton from Cameroon three years ago. Opportunities for higher education are rare in his African nation.

“There was no college for me to go to,” he said.

He is now a junior at SUNY Canton, studying electrical technology. He said his education has taught him how to meet new people, and the value of sticking with a difficult task, both skills he hopes to take back home once he graduates.

“So many people in my country don’t understand the value of education,” he said.

Cameroon is a nation with a high crime rate and a life expectancy of only 55. Mr. Nzuah said he wants to pass on his own love of learning, to teach his fellow young people that crime is not the best path.

It has not always been easy. Homesickness and culture shock are common ailments, both for international students visiting America and for American students abroad.

“You will get homesick, and you will be lonely,” Ms. Fiacco said.

The solution, she said, is by becoming as engaged as possible. Students must make friends, join clubs, and get out of their comfort zones, she said.

Mr. Nzuah followed this advice, becoming involved in several campus clubs and organizations. His coursework has been challenging, he said, but he understands the value of what he is doing.

“Nothing is going to make me quit,” he said.

According to Ms. Fiacco, the college will continue to broaden its reach, both by attracting more international students and sending more students abroad. International Education Week will return next year, she said.

The week of activities wraps up today with an international dessert tasting in the Southworth Library at 1 p.m.

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