Celebrate Upstate International Month

March kicks off a month-long, multi-venue, multi-event celebration of all things international here in the Upstate. Events are hosted by Upstate International, a local nonprofit organization that provides information, programs, and services to foreign residents and immigrants for cultural diversity in our community.

With more than 230 international companies, the Upstate has the largest foreign investment per capita than any other region in the U.S., and many of these companies bring international employees to live and work in the area for a few years. In 1998, the International Center of the Upstate was created by the City of Greenville, the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Michelin North America, to help new international residents settle into the area and assist with things such as language lessons, social events and even how to file taxes and get a social security card and driver's license.

The International Center now has participants from more than seventy different countries as well as local residents and is a leader in innovative international programs. Their language classes and conversation clubs have become quite popular, allowing participants to learn another language in an informal setting. Classes are not just English, either. They offer French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish classes as well.

The Center also has several offshoot clubs that foster social interaction for its members. The Upstate Global Professionals Club brings together business leaders to foster relationships of international business while the International Women’s Club promotes social activities such as hiking, potlucks and ladies nights out. According to Whitney Walters, Executive Director of International Center of the Upstate, “The International Center had long been a ‘hidden gem’ in this community, but those who participate in our organization know what a vital element it is for internationals who move here. With the creation of Upstate International Month, we hope that we will be able to show a much broader audience what we do and its significance to our community and to economic development.”

In March, the organization will celebrate International Month by holding several events (there over 90 so far for this year) to promote knowledge, establish friendships and share their culture and talents. “This is an exciting step in the growth of cultural diversity initiatives in our area. The region known for its international business will now also be known as an area that celebrates the myriad of cultures that we share among our community members,“ says Walters.

This year’s events kick off on February 24 with International Cocktails and a Twist, a fundraising party with cocktails, appetizers, dances from around the world, and more. Tickets are $85 per person or $160 per couple, and the event is from 6:30-10:30 at the City of Greer Events Center.

On March 1st, the annual Ringing of 100 Bells officially begins the month of international festivities. Here are some highlights:

March 4th—Internationally themed handbell music featuring Carolina Bronze Handbell and Charleston’s Palmetto Bronze Handbell ensembles (Hughes Main Library, Greenville, 2:00-3:00 p.m.)

March 11th—Vision International Annual International Costume Party (International Vision office, 3519 Pelham Rd #204, Greenville, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

March 17th—International Spring Concert: A World of Music featuring the Greenville Concert Band (Greenville Technical College, 7:30-9:00 p.m.)

March 23rd—What’s Culture Got to Do With It? Lecture by Kim Carroll of Catalyst International (Pelham Road Library, 6:30-7:30 p.m.)

March 28th—Movie Screening: Nowhere to Call Home (Greenville Technical College Northwest Campus Heritage Hall, 11:00a.m.-2:30p.m.)

March 31st—International Fashion Show and Festival (Riverside High School, 6:30 p.m.)

There are plenty more events listed on Upstate International’s calendar—cooking lessons from various international cuisines, language conversation clubs, business event, and more. Everyone is sure to find some way to engage with our Upstate International community.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com.