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International Students Day – November 17, 2022

International Students’ Day is on November 17. It’s a day when we remember the bravery of thousands of students in Prague who fought for national pride and the right to higher education. In 1939, Nazi forces arrested and executed nine protesters without trial and sent over 1,200 students to concentration camps. Many did not survive. International Students’ Day commemorates their sacrifice. And while we seem worlds apart today, the right to education and peaceful protest remains a struggle in many countries. On International Students’ Day, let’s strengthen the resolve to protect the rights of our youth and support them by directing them towards the right resources such as Scholaroo — a platform providing information on scholarships and resources for acquiring education.

History of International Students Day

For insights into International Students’ Day, let’s first trace the events leading up to it. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, the Third Reich staked aggressive claims over territories outside Germany’s borders. The Nazis first annexed Austria in 1938, Hitler’s home country. Next, they forced Czechoslovakia to give up parts of its territories. Germany occupied the Czech regions, forcing Slovakia to split into a satellite state.

In 1939, students of the Medical Faculty at Charles University in Prague held a demonstration to commemorate the formation of an independent Czechoslovak Republic. The Nazis brutally suppressed the gathering, resulting in a student Jan Opletal’s death.

Thousands of students turned up at his funeral procession – an event that transformed into an anti-Nazi demonstration. The Nazis responded by shutting down all Czech education institutions. In a shocking display of brute power, they arrested over 1,200 students and sent them to concentration camps. But the worst was yet to come. On November 17, the Nazis rounded up nine protesters, executing them without trial.

Historians believe that the Third Reich allowed the funeral procession because they anticipated a violent outcome. It would give the regime the validation they needed to close down all Czech universities, dealing a severe blow to rebellion from academics and student activists.

November 17 is International Students’ Day, to remember the courage of student activists during the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague. The first observance took place in 1941 at the International Students’ Council in London. It was there that students decided to introduce International Students’ Day, to be observed every November 17.

Since then, many organizations and international student groups have continued to observe the day. The day is a public holiday in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is formally called the “Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day.”

International Students Day timeline

1939
Student Unrest Reaches Tipping Points

   
In Prague, the Nazi forces violently suppress a student gathering to celebrate the anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia. 

1939
Young Minds and Lives Lost

The Nazis execute nine protesters without a trial on November 17.

1941
The First International Students' Day

Led by several refugee students, the International Students’ Council in London marks the first International Students’ Day. 

1973
History Repeats Itself in Greece

On November 17, the Greek military junta crushes the Athens Polytechnic by storming the gates of the university.

International Students Day FAQs

What is International Students Day?

November 17 is International Students’ Day. The day commemorates the courage of student protestors in Prague. On this day in 1939, Nazi forces executed nine protestors (eight students and one professor) without trial. They also arrested over 1,200 students and sent them to concentration camps.

What are the benefits of being an international student?

International students have a global outlook since they encounter multiple perspectives and therefore multiple possibilities. Studying in international universities helps students see the world and meet people with diverse interests.

What does November 18 celebrate?

National Naturopathy Day. Observed in India, the day celebrates and seeks to promote positive mental and physical health through Naturopathy, a drugless system of medicine.

How to Observe International Students Day

  1. Organise events at your university

    International Students' Day is a reminder not just about the power of the youth but also about the strength of diversity. Encourage your university to organize events that celebrate multiculturalism. Bring different groups together for an engaging day of discussion, film, music, and art from around the world.

  2. Talk about it

    Spread the word in your circles. Share resources and information on social media. The more people you can reach, the better.

  3. Chat with someone new

       Walk over and introduce yourself to an exchange student or a new student in the class. Maybe even invite them home for dinner. There’s nothing like a personal connection to break stereotypes and preconceived notions. 

5 Facts About World Universities That Will Blow Your Mind

  1. Where no university flag has gone before

    Charles “Pete” Conrad, a Princeton graduate, was the third man to walk on the moon in 1968; he planted a Princeton flag on its surface.  

  2. Iranian women in science outnumber other countries

    With over 70% of female students in pure sciences and engineering, Iran has the highest female to male ratio in universities.

  3. The first university mascot

    Yale’s 'Handsome Dan' was the first mascot in the history of U.S. universities.

  4. M.I.T. students can technically become pirates

    M.I.T. students who complete sailing, pistol, fencing, and archery classes can officially receive a pirate’s license. 

  5. The world’s largest scavenger hunt

     The University of Chicago holds an annual four-day scavenger hunt, complete with a 200-mile road trip, cryptograms, challenges, and a three-course meal.

Why International Students Day is Important

  1. Never take things for granted

    Today we’re reminded about the privilege of education and the importance of dissent. It inspires us to keep asking the big questions, no matter the consequences.

  2. A celebration of youth

    Students are tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers, creators, and moral centers. Higher education helps everyone make a difference in their own lives and the world. International Students’ Day celebrates young people and their rights to education. 

  3. The importance of student activism

    It’s a day that commemorates student activism. Throughout history, student-led activism has challenged the authority of fascists and despots. Student-led events at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Prague’s Velvet Revolution, or the protests at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University will forever inspire generations to come. 

International Students Day dates

YearDateDay
2022November 17Thursday
2023November 17Friday
2024November 17Sunday
2025November 17Monday
2026November 17Tuesday

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