International Students Day

November 15, 2010

Smith College first celebrated International Students Day on November 17, 1947.  The International Student Congress meeting in Prague in 1945 declared November 17th as a day of remembrance of a group of Czech students who were slaughtered by the National Socialists.  IS Day emphasized the need for students from all over the world to come together and establish an understanding between nations to foster work on common problems–and find solutions.

International Students Day Festival, 1947

The program of events for 1947 included a parade of students from 26 different nations, with flags of each nation in John M. Greene Hall beginning at 8:30am.  The speaker at the College Chapel services was Walter Wallace, the New York regional head of the National Student Association.  The NSA goal is to “equalize education throughout the country on a high level.” A forum on “student political activity in China, Britain, Russia and the U.S.” took place in the Browsing Room of Neilson Library.  A British graduate student, a Smith alumna from China, a current student, and a U.S. citizen who spent his youth in the USSR took turns describing the activities in their representative lands.  A Russian culture exhibit,  and an international fair with wares and food took place all day.  In the evening, Alumnae Gymnasium was alive with dance and music performed by student representatives from England, Brazil, Burma, Czechoslovakia, China, Norway and Greece .  A special chapel service was held at the end of the day in the Library’s Little Chapel with prayers and hymns in several different languages.  The IS Day was sponsored by the Student Government, and several of the political committees on campus.

An editorial in the Smith College Associated News hoped  “International Students Day will become a tradition at Smith, and a yearly celebration in other colleges as well.  Typical of Smith’s leadership in international affairs” the program…was printed on the front pages of the Mount Holyoke and Wesleyan student newspapers.  Kudos were given to the coordinating committee, and “…especially to the foreign students, whose participation gave significance to International Student’s Day.

International Students Day provides an opportunity for Smith students to celebrate thinking and acting globally and to share native foods and culture with one another.

Sarah Anael, GS1962 with professor William van Voris at IS Day, 1961

Students from India prepare a meal for International Students Day in 1982

International Students Day events are happening today, November 15th at Smith College.

For more information about the history of International Students Day celebrations at Smith, and Smith’s history of global work and education, come to the Smith College Archives.


Smith and International Education

October 11, 2007

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at a conference in Madrid, Spain on Smith’s role in Spanish women’s educational development between 1900-1936.  Smith College, along with other women’s colleges primarily in the North, supported the work of the International Institute for Girls in Spain now known as the International Institute, beginning in the early 1890s.  Smith provided funds to the organization for salaries, scholarships, and operational costs.  Many faculty members went to teach there during their sabbatical year.  In some cases, they were instrumental in establishing laboratories for young Spanish women to recieve hands-on scientific training.  Alumnae often came to Madrid to work for the Institute. 

As part of my talk I mentioned that Smith has a long tradition of supporting international education.  Smith graduates have founded or supported a number of women’s colleges and schools throughout the world, including Kobe College in Japan; Ginling College in China; the American School in Constantinople, Turkey, and the Florentine School for Girls in Italy, in addition to the International Institute for Girls in Spain.  The College has carried out a global sense of mission for a long time by supporting these schools, the Junior Year Abroad program, and scholarships designed to bring foreign students to Smith to continue their education.  Current initiatives of the College such as the Women’s Education Worldwide, and the success of many Smith women to recieve Fulbright scholarships is a testament to the interest and success of Smith in the world.

For further information about international education at Smith within the records of the Smith College Archives see: