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Greenville Business Magazine

Upstate International Month celebrates the various nationalities that call the area home

Feb 21, 2019 05:14PM

By Caren Senter | Upstate International | Communications Director and UI Month Program Manager                                                                                                                    

Upstate International Month, a signature program of Upstate International, is a month-long, 10-county program of internationally themed events designed to highlight, celebrate, and promote the rich cultural diversity found in Upstate South Carolina. We are committed to the idea that by understanding and embracing our differences, we will make our community stronger as a whole, enrich all of our lives individually, and recognize that our differences only serve to strengthen our shared community.

As a result of Upstate International Month (UI Month), March has become a highly anticipated month of cultural celebrations that draws people from all over the region, and beyond, to visit the Upstate.

Since its inception in 2013, Upstate International Month has included, among other things, global business roundtables, international coffee tastings and ethnic dinners, community book reads, panel discussions, cooking classes/demonstrations, art exhibits, lectures and panel discussions, dance and theater productions, band performances, and even athletic events and film screenings. Each event has an international focus. With more than 50 partners hosting more than 100 internationally themed events each year, UI Month provides innumerable opportunities to see, hear, touch, and taste the world without having to leave home.

Every year, we literally ring in the month on March 1 at 12 p.m. with the “Ringing of 100 Bells” in recognition of the traditions that formed the basis of the Upstate’s diverse beginnings.

Bergamo, Italy, is one of Greenville’s sister cities; it’s also one of the oldest cities in Italy. Every evening at 10 p.m., bells throughout the city chime 100 times to honor the tradition of the nightly warning that the great city gates were about to close. The gates no longer close but the nightly ritual continues, and we honor that tradition. Clemson Memorial Carillon students ring in Upstate International Month by playing more than 20 different national anthems on their carillon starting at noon on March 1, while at the same time several churches and educational institutions participate in UI Month by ringing their bells 100 times.

With today’s divisive political climate, Upstate International Month has become more important than ever. A cornerstone initiative of Upstate International, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering the dynamic exchange of international cultures and ideas, UI Month provides an opportunity for us to work together in welcoming, celebrating, and educating about our globally diverse population through a variety of internationally themed events. UI Month is a multi-county collaboration of organizations, partners, sponsors, and communities.

This year, we are kicking off UI Month with an evening of mind-bending international trivia. Tickets include a dinner of Italian food, beer and wine, dessert, prizes, and trivia questions you never even knew to wonder about. For example, which breed of dog was used by the fairies and elves of Wales to pull their fairy coaches, work their fairy cattle, and serve as the steed for their fairy warriors? The answer: the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Who knew? The International Trivia Night event will kick off the month-long festival, provide a great way to get together with friends and colleagues, build some team or company spirit, and earn bragging rights—all while supporting and promoting the Upstate’s cultural diversity.

Through Upstate International’s signature programs, specifically International Month and World Affairs Council Upstate, we work with partner organizations to promote the Upstate’s global identity. In an effort to sustain international engagement in our region and foster a broad perspective of not only our cultural diversity, but also the critical, global issues of our times, Upstate International Month provides individuals and businesses the opportunity to connect locally, engage globally, and benefit dramatically from both. Upstate International is changing the way South Carolina sees the world, and the way the world sees South Carolina.

As winter draws to a close and our International Month of March begins, all of us are encouraged to experience and admire the variety of cultures that go into making the Upstate a truly international community. Trying new things opens our minds and broadens our perspectives so that understanding, acceptance, and appreciation will help define the Upstate of South Carolina and set it apart as an example to follow.

To learn more about Upstate International Month and this year's events, please visit the event's site.

Caren Senter is the communications director and Upstate International Month program manager.