Engage with TMCC's International Education Week

Photos of origami shapes and two tango dancers.
Rebecca A. Eckland

In a world disconnected by COVID-19, hosting a week-long celebration focused on global education, diversity, cultures, languages, and art may run counter to our present moment, and yet, as International Education Week (IEW) co-organizer Gwendolyn Clancy said, in a world  disconnected by COVID-19, we’re nonetheless connected by Zoom. “We can include people from all over—they don’t have to be on campus to join in the event,” she said.  “This week-long event, which came to be in part because of the resilience and close ties of the TMCC community, is a reminder of our need to remain connected, educated, and engaged.” 

IEW begins on Monday, Nov. 16 and features four days of presentations that explore this year’s theme of “Engaged, Resilient, Global” through the varying lens of each presenter’s expertise, education and lived experience. 

“This year, IEW really pushed us to think outside the box as educators,” said IEW co-organizer Virag Nikolics. “We relied on our connections and our community to make this event come together, because honestly, international education, as it exists, isn’t sustainable. But, relying on our community shows our resilience and engagement that we still can offer global perspectives regardless of where we [physically] are. This event really does bring the world to TMCC.”

Unlike last year’s IEW event which focused on a one-day International Symposium, this year’s IEW features a variety of presentations throughout the week that offer a kaleidoscope of perspectives on issues that impact our community both on a global and local scale. IEW at TMCC is organized by the International Faculty Committee (IFC) and each IEW event will be hosted by IFC members.

Here are three of several sessions that participants can attend. See the entire week’s schedule on the International Education Week website.

International Coffee Hour: Uzbekistan

No International Education Week would be complete without a stop at TMCC’s longest-running speaker series: International Coffee Hour. This student-led presentation from TMCC Biology major Sevara Tashkhanova will invite participants to explore her home country of Uzbekistan, located in Central Asia and roughly the same size as Italy. 

“We have a really long history,” said Tashkhanova whose presentation will include videos that she is producing herself that feature her friends and classmates, showcasing the diversity of her home country. “The oldest cities were founded in 5 B.C.E., and we have a lot of monuments and archeological sites...[and] our cities that look like a map of history.”

Audience members will be sure to experience the great diversity of Uzbekistan, which was due, in part, to the military campaigns of both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. This diversity appears on the skin of the Uzbek people, some of whom have dark skin, hair and eyes and others, like Tashkhanova’s grandmother, who have lighter complexions. “We still have small villages... my grandmother is from Kattaqo’rg’on, she has blonde hair and gray eyes and she looks more European. In fact, people think she moved from Europe or maybe Russia, but she is Uzbek,” Tashkhanova explained. 

Before moving to the U.S. a year and a half ago, Tashkhanova lived in Uzbekistan’s capital city, Tashkent, where she worked as a nurse. Although she was raised to be open-minded and to embrace other cultures and ideas, the move to a new country nonetheless presented her with challenges.

“It was scary [to move to the US], we moved nowhere to see no one. In Uzbekistan we believe in legacy and family, and people in one family they try to support each other and protect each other, and when you don’t have your family somewhere it’s... hard to move. You don’t know what to do, and no one can guide you,” she said. 

However, Tashkhanova enrolled at TMCC as a biology major, and intends to continue her education for many years, to obtain a doctorate in a subject she finds deeply interesting… and necessary. “I want to get a Ph.D. and teach because biology is really interesting, and it’s something that surrounds us every day. I think it’s something we need to study and learn about more. It’s the discipline that describes the world we live in—our home— and we need to treat it in the right way.”  

Sharing knowledge about the world is something that participants will appreciate about Tashkanova’s presentation. “My main goal is to say that Uzbekistan exists, because when I usually say I’m from Uzbekistan, [people] are really curious, they are confused and they ask if it’s a village or small town, where is that?” she said. “So my main goal is to present Uzbekistan as a place and present Uzbeks as a nation.”

This is the second International Education Week in which Tashkhanova will participate; she performed traditional Uzbek dances for the event last year. These dances blend Arabic and Persian influences, and represent the unique and diverse history of Uzbekistan. Her presentation echoes the central theme of this year’s IEW event: Engaged, Resilient and Global. 

“The International Coffee Hour series and this International Education Week  are opportunities [for participants] to touch a history, another country in the souls of other people, and to experience our differences. But, most importantly, to see that we’re still human beings and we’re really brothers and sisters—we’re still one family,” she said.

On the Trail of Orchids

Like many of us, Joy Orlich always found orchids interesting for their exotic beauty, but little did she know that this particular flower would open the gateway for international travel.  “There are orchids that grow in every country around the world,” she explained. 
For twenty-five years, Orlich belonged to an international women’s organization that hosted a booth at the International Home Show at the Reno/Sparks Convention Center. Orlich remembers that across from her organization’s booth was a booth for the Orchid Society. “I was just fascinated by orchids. Like everybody, I thought they were exotic and impossible to grow,” she said.

Orlich ended up joining the Orchid Society a few years later, and started going to monthly meetings in which she learned more about this global flower. “Learning the names of orchids is like learning another language,” she said. She also became acquainted with orchid organizations around the world.

In 2017, Orlich traveled to Ecuador for an International Orchid Show. “These are put on every three years in different countries around the world,” she said. “It just so happened that a few years before, some very good friends of mine moved to Ecuador, so that’s how the Ecuador part of my journey came to be.”

Orlich also traveled to various countries thanks to the Orchid Conservation Alliance (OCA). “This group does what the Nature Conservancy does,” she explained. “They look for parcels of land that are special for sensitive wildlife, and try to buy up parcels of that land to keep them from being developed.” Several of these parcels of land that are vital to orchids are in tropical regions where logging threatens the existence of this flower that grows in trees. 
“I saw a presentation on this [organization and their work] and I thought: this is the coolest thing ever,” she said.  In 2019, she joined the OCA for its “Orchids in the Wild” tour in the Yunnan Province of China. Her group was composed of a dozen people from all over the world who shared her love and fascination with orchids. Because the point of the trip was to find orchids growing in their natural habitat, Orlich and her group experienced a different China than the one experienced by tourists on stay on the well-beaten paths: they encountered small villages and towns, stayed in little hotels and caught glimpses of the local flora and fauna.  “It was just a really interesting way to see a part of a country that we wouldn’t normally, as a tourist, see.”

Through her presentation for International Education Week—which will include plenty of pictures of beautiful orchids—Orlich hopes to inspire students, faculty and staff to think “outside the box” when they plan their next excursion, whether it’s to another country, state or even city. “An interest in a subject like orchids can create opportunities for travel and provide enriching experiences that can help you to see things beyond what you’d normally see when you travel,” she said.

But, Orlich insists, it doesn’t have to be orchids. “There are garden tours, there are agricultural tours, and there are foodie tours... there are so many ways of experiencing another country other than the traditional ‘historical’ tour where you go to museums and castles and other things like that,” she said.

Let Orlich’s many journeys (she’s traveled to over 35 countries) inspire you to find unique ways to get yourself off the beaten path and to see aspects of place and culture. Because, as it turns out, even orchids can open your eyes to new possibilities and places. “Travel has many unexpected ways of enlightening us,” she said.

Origami Workshop: The Tradition and Art of Paper Folding

If you’re looking for a hands-on experience of other cultures, consider attending TMCC Fine Arts student Emily Hurtado’s Origami Workshop. Hurtado started her academic career at TMCC three years ago as a General Education major. However, her interest—or as she calls it, her obsession with creative expression through paper folding—led her to change her major to the Fine Arts. 

“It’s a fusion of mediums that I do... paper crafting as a fine art—it’s distinguishing what is a fine art versus a craft. That’s part of the reason why I did General Education, because I wasn’t looking for the label of ‘fine art’ or even ‘artist.’ But, I realized that I do want to create art, not just as a hobby for my own personal interest, and so I changed my major,” she said. 

Yet, for Hurtado, whose cultural roots include both Mexican and Japanese heritages, titles and labels are often complicated. It’s fitting that her work seeks to fuse these divergent lines into one art object. Many of her pieces feature origami (which she learned to do from her Japanese mother) and varied elements that offer a nod to her Mexican heritage.

“My mom taught me a few [origami] models when we visited [Japan] for my uncle’s wedding,” Hurtado remembered. “And then I just always loved it, and it was something that I enjoyed doing with my family. Then I was stuck with it. I would fold cranes every day in elementary school up until high school when I formed an origami club, and that’s when I started working on more complex models besides the crane. I want to memorize another complex model that I could fold and give to people.”

Hurtado’s concept of origami is portable: she prefers a free-folding method that utilizes whatever scrap of paper someone has lying around. “It could be scrap paper, notebook paper, origami paper... just being able to fold it and leave it somewhere or give it to someone,” she said. Although Hurtado’s favorite model these days is a 50-fold triceratops, she will teach workshop participants to fold the traditional crane model during her workshop on Thursday afternoon. 

“You can do a lot with cranes,” she said.  “Also, that’s a traditional [origami] model. There are a lot of variations of the crane: the flapping crane, a traditional crane, some people invert the last fold and the wings and the tail are different... if you invert those folds, it becomes flat and you can curl the areas that are flat. There is so much you can do with a crane.”

In fact, much of Hurtado’s work features folded cranes, such as her 2016–2017 piece “A Thousand Cranes” which refers to the Japanese belief that by folding 1,000 paper cranes, a person will be granted a wish.  She will be joined by special guest Boice Wong, an origami artist from Portland.

Her work will be on exhibition titled “Fusion” starting Dec. 1 in the TMCC Main Art Gallery. 

Travel the World... From Home

Even though 2020 turned out to be the year when many events, trips and other plans had to be canceled, as International Education Week shows us: through the power of community and communication, we can engage with one another, demonstrate resilience and explore global issues right from the comfort of our own homes. 

Join one—or all—of the International Education Week events to explore the world we live in thanks to the TMCC Community where #YouAreWelcomeHere. 

For more information about International Education Week, contact International Faculty Committee (IFC) Co-Chairs Gwendolyn Clancy or Virag Nikolics.