International Education and Cultural Opportunities in the Ozarks

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

By: Christian Winfield


When you think about the Ozarks, what comes to mind? Does the thought of having opportunities to form personal connections with people from Japan or Korea, trying exotic food from countries in Africa or Asia, or learning about dances from Europe or South America ever cross your mind? Given the title of this article, I’m sure you’ve figured out that these thoughts, images, and opportunities should enter your mind even if they regularly don’t, and if so then – good! This article is already doing its job!


In this article we will be highlighting just some of the international educational (both academic and cultural) opportunities within the Ozarks as the first of our monthly articles we at Ozark International Outreach (OIO) hope to produce. It is an ideal starting point as an article for OIO since the often-overlooked presence of these opportunities mirrors the mission of OIO to bring awareness to the connection between the Ozarks and the international world.


In the future, OIO hopes to have an active resource guide available to the community – a sort of one-stop location in order to keep track of these events within the Ozarks. For the purposes of this article, however, our vision is a bit more limited, highlighting just a few of the events across the Ozarks.


Before beginning, we should delve a bit more into why these resources are so important for the people of the Ozarks. With that in mind, let’s answer the ever-important question of “Why should I care?” What are the benefits to expanding one’s knowledge on different cultures, countries, and people?


The Importance of These Resources

For many people, these events might offer us an opportunity for entertainment – a chance to do something fun and different every so often. But their importance as a tool for education should not be underestimated!


Education on international subjects is increasingly important for all of us in today’s globalized, interconnected world. We routinely hear about international events as they happen on the news, and sometimes these events impact us as Americans directly, whether that be in the form of goods we buy, how it affects our economy, or if it leads to conflict. Unfortunately, international affairs are also something which Americans have historically struggled with. Indeed, despite the impact of globalization, Americans still struggle today. A 2016 National Geographic Survey on Global Affairs “revealed significant gaps between what young people understand about today’s world and what they need to know to successfully navigate and compete in it.” Specifically, those aged 18-26 with at least some college education averaged a score of 55% on a global literacy exam examining geography, current events, and economics and trade.


Of course, in many ways this lack of knowledge makes sense. In his examination of Americans, the international affairs expert George Friedman points out that American’s lack of knowledge or interest in international affairs is likely the result of living in a country geographically isolated by huge oceans, where traveling 200 miles will likely keep you inside the country rather bringing you into a new one as it does in many other places of the world. Historically, it simply hasn’t been relevant for the vast majority of Americans to care about the rest of the world in the same way, say, Europeans might care about the many states which are much closer to them and have had a huge impact on their lives.


George Friedman’s observations about the relevance of international affairs are probably on the mark, but the truth is that global literacy is important in so many ways. Indeed, experts repeat the same message: having knowledge about international affairs is critically important to the health of our country and our ability to help contribute to its growth and development as citizens. In their interview of Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, National Geographic highlights our connection between understanding international events and our ability to make informed decisions as voters in elections. In his article, Andrew Romano highlights how lack of knowledge can impact our ability as to fix domestic issues. A 2010 survey found “that Americans want to tackle deficits by cutting foreign aid from what they believe is the current level (27 percent of the budget) to a more prudent 13 percent.” In reality, US foreign aid is below 1 percent – a huge discrepancy which highlights how far off most of us are in understanding our country’s budget and spending!


David Houghton, a professor at the University of Central Florida summarizes it quite well: “In a democracy, elected officials are supposed to be the delegates of the people. And here lies the significance of popular ignorance of American foreign policy: it makes a delegate-style approach harder, since an electorate that doesn’t inform itself about the issues cannot possibly hope to guide what leaders do, and cannot hope to prevent the kind of blunders with which some American foreign policy has been littered.” For Houghton and OIO the answer is simple: education. The more people learn and know, the better – both for us and our country.


But knowledge on international affairs and being globally literate has benefits beyond abstract politics. Cliché as it might sound, opportunities for international education are especially important for today’s young people. Gallup’s examination of what businesses look for in future leaders found that 48% of organizations wanted leaders with “global capabilities” as a top priority, but only 18% felt they could meet this future demand for global leaders. Multinational businesses want people who not only have experience in other countries, but are genuinely curious about other countries and cultures, and have worked with diverse groups of people in a team setting. Businesses clearly expect that in the future, the world will be even more interconnected, and giving our children international education opportunities now could help them in the future!


Historically, Americans may have had good reasons for their lack of global literacy, but the world is different today, and international issues affect us more and more with each passing year. Whether it be for personal fulfillment, for the health of our country, or for future career paths, having an active interest in the world is important for Americans, and Ozarkians are no different!


As a final word, OIO has a significant following among the homeschool community, and indeed improving educational opportunities for the homeschool community is a major motivating factor for one of our founders Tammie Cortezz. While we hope that everyone can make use of these resources, we hope that the homeschool community in particular finds this information useful.

International Opportunities in the Ozarks


Springfield Area


Tour of the Globe

Who: Missouri State International Programs

When: Annually Around November ~5PM-9PM (See: Missouri State Calendar for Details: https://calendar.missouristate.edu/viewevent.aspx?eventid=101331&occurrenceid=190793)

Where: Jim D. Morris Center (301 S Jefferson Ave Springfield, MO)

What: The Tour of the Globe event offers an opportunity for the international students of MSU to show off their home countries and cultures for the people of Springfield. Country layouts vary in size from a single table managed by one or two students to an entire classroom with many students. Accordingly, some countries might only offer some pictures and free food, while others offer videos, demonstrations, items from the country (clothing, instruments, etc.), music, and more. In our two years of attending the students have always been friendly and willing to answer questions. Plenty to see, learn, and enjoy for both adults and children!

Cost: Free


International Friends of Missouri State

Who: Missouri State University

When: See More Info

Where: See More Info

What: The International Friends of Missouri State program offers residents an opportunity to connect with the international students that attend Missouri State and live as our neighbors during their study period. A program coordinator at MSU’s English Language Institute stated that the program was beneficial for students, as it offers the opportunity to connect with a family and get a unique perspective into American culture, even if it’s just for an occasional dinner, some texting, or other events. On the other end, families can engage with their student to the extent that both parties feel comfortable with. In the end, it offers both parties the opportunity to make friends and learn about each other’s cultures on a personal level. Interested families should see the website for details about applying.

Cost: Free

More Info: https://international.missouristate.edu/friends/


Springfield Japanese Fall Festival

Who: Springfield Sister Cities Association

When: Annually Around September

Where: Springfield Botanical Gardens in Nathanael Green Park (2400 S Scenic Springfield, MO 65807)

What: The Springfield Japanese Fall Festival celebrates the 33-year-old sister-city relationship with the Japanese city of Isesaki. The festival features numerous demonstrations, booths, and stalls, including musical and dance performances, authentic Japanese goods available for purchase, and numerous art activities for children.

Cost: Adults: $7-$10, Children $3. (Free with a Springfield Sisters Membership: http://peacethroughpeople.org/get-involved/membership/)


International Food Festival

Who: Drury International Student Association

When: Annually around March

Where: Findlay Student Center, Commons Dinning Hall (900 N. Benton Ave. Springfield, MO 65802)

What: The International Food Festival “mixes things up with a night of international glamour, diverse cuisine, and dynamic cultural performances.” All food and cultural exhibitions are presented by Drury students from more than 50 countries around the world.

Cost: In Advance: $8 for students and $13 for the general public. At the door: $10 for students and $15 for the general public.


Springfield Multicultural Festival

Who: Unite Publications

When: January

Where: Oasis Convention Center* (*In 2019)

What: The Springfield Multicultural Festival is an annual performing arts and community resource expo designed to provide access to cultural enrichment through the visual and performing arts. The festival features ethnic foods and non-stop dance and music originating from all over the world while encouraging a broader understanding and appreciation of the diverse resources and opportunities available in the area.

Cost: Adults: $5, Children (17 and younger): Free



Rolla Area


Celebration of Nations

Who: Missouri S&T

When: September 28, 11am

Where: Downtown Rolla and Missouri S&T Campus

What: Celebration of Nations gives area residents and Missouri S&T the "opportunity to showcase and celebrate the vibrant cultural diversity that makes Rolla unique in the Ozarks." The event begins with the Parade of Nations which features flags representing more than 80 nations, as well as floats, marching bands and more. The parade goes through downtown Rolla and ends at the Rolla Band Shell, where an announcer welcomes each nation represented in the parade to the festival as its flag arrives. The event also includes live music and dance, arts, crafts and displays. International treats, meals and drinks can be purchased.

Cost: Free

More Info: https://nations.mst.edu/



Joplin Area


International Film Festival

Who: Missouri Southern State University – Harrison & June Kash International Film Society

When: Tuesdays at 7PM

Where: Cornell Auditorium in the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center

What: Offering cinema from countries all over the world to “enrich the cultural experiences of students and the community”, the Harrison & June Kash International Film Society presents these free, weekly films. The Society offers a balanced showing, with well-known and popular international films are shown during the Fall Semester, while lesser-known but still “significant” movies are shown during the Spring Semester. The showing even offers program notes prior to the showing in order to better help the audience understand and appreciate the film.

Cost: Free

More Info: https://www.mssu.edu/academics/international-studies/film-festival/index.php


World Music and Cuisine Festival

Who: Missouri Southern State University

When: Annually around April

Where: Billingsly Student Center (3950 E. Newman Rd. Joplin, MO 64801)

What: The World Music and Cuisine Festival offers opportunities to hear music from around the world while also sampling food from around the globe. MSSU international students, faculty, staff, and community members prepare their native dishes, in addition to the few local ethnic restaurants.

Cost: The music is free. There is a small charge for the food.

More Info: https://www.mssu.edu/calendar/index.php?eID=6223



Fayetteville Area


Nadi Cinema

Who: University of Arkansas – Middle East Film Club

When: Wednesdays, 7PM

Where: Hembree Auditorium, room 107E in the Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences building

What: Nadi Cinema offers both students and the community a cultural experience through weekly films from the Middle East “and often beyond”. Viewers will be able to see films from a variety of genres and time periods, from classics to modern hits, and from documentaries to comedies. All movies are subtitled in English.

Cost: Free

More Info: https://fulbright.uark.edu/area-studies/middle-east-studies/events/nadi-cinema.php


International Festival

Who: Botanical Garden of the Ozarks

When: Annually around September

Where: Botanical Garden of the Ozarks (4703 N. Crossover Road Fayetteville, AR 72764)

What: The International Festival includes booths with displays and activities from “all corners of this diverse planet.” Additionally, there are traditional dance performances from different countries that take place on the Great Lawn throughout the course of the event.

Cost: Adults (13 and over) $7, Children (5-12) $4, free for children 4 and under. Free for BGO members (https://www.bgozarks.org/support/become-a-member/)



Pittsburg Area


International Food and Culture Fair

Who: Pittsburg State International Student Association

Where: Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center (503 N. Pine St. Pittsburg, Kansas 66762)

When: Annually around March

What: The International Food and Culture Fair provides the opportunity to sample food from around the world and to see performances that are representative of a host of cultures from around the globe.

Cost: Tickets are $1 and food samples are $1 each.


Tastes and Sounds of Nations

Who: Pittsburg State International Student Association

Where: Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas)

When: Annually around November

What: Tastes and Sounds of Nations is an event where you will have the opportunity to try food from different parts of the world and also enjoy a presentation at the end of the evening.

Cost: Free



These are just some of the opportunities available in the Ozarks! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more events, and feel free to share events you find, as well as your experiences with them!

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