Standing atop the steps of Hood College's Coblentz Hall, student Naba Fawzi recited a poem in Arabic as dozens of flags whipped around her in the blustery autumn wind.

"My homeland, my love for you has no bounds," Fawzi translated, speaking of her home country of Iraq.

A junior studying economics and business, Fawzi joined staff and students Monday in the college's third annual International Parade of Flags, its second held in-person. The colorful display represented the 30-plus countries from which Hood students hail and served as the kickoff to International Education Week.

The celebration is a joint initiative of the U.S. departments of State and Education. Hood College is home to more than 250 international students, according to its website, not to mention faculty and staff from abroad.

Before the parade took off from Hood College Drive, Fawzi clutched the red, black and white flag of Iraq. The green letters in the middle read, "God is the greatest," she said. Fawzi described the people of Iraq as determined and brave.

"I think it's an amazing way to show the diversity of Hood College," Fawzi said of the event.

April Boulton, dean of the Graduate School, carried the flag of Egypt in honor of a colleague who could not attend. 

"It's such a celebration of diversity and inclusion, all things we believe in," Boulton said.

Graduate student Dhara Gada hoisted the Australian flag, while her classmate Nahaprasaath Ganesan bore the flag of India, where they're both from. The two chatted about the commonalities and differences they share being from different parts of the country.

"I don't speak her language," Ganesan said, gesturing to Gada, but they both celebrate the festival of Diwali.

Gada is studying management information systems while Ganesan majors in information technology.

"India is a very diverse country," Gada said, noting its 28 states.

Senior computer science major Andrew Bezmen, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine six years ago, helped organize the event.

"I wanted to spread some diversity around campus," he said, carrying Ukraine's flag.

International Education Week at Hood will feature activities such as a panel discussion and movie night, he said. More information about the week's activities can be found on Hood College's website (Hood.edu).

Dean of Students Ron Wiafe did the work of two people, lifting the flags of Ghana and the Central African Republic. As parade-goers prepared to take off, Wiafe said he saw two flags remaining that represented Hood College students' countries, so he grabbed them.

"I didn't want a student to feel left out," he explained.

Though the afternoon was cold, Tanith Fowler Corsi, director of Graduate Admission, said her heart was warmed by the gathering before her. She started International Education Week at Hood after seeing it done at other institutions where she worked previously. Fowler Corsi also has a personal connection to international education having grown up in Monaco.

"I thought it would be wonderful to bring that global tradition here," she said. "It really brings our community together."

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller 

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