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 Scholar — 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 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 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 occurred in 1941 at the International Students’ Council in London. There, 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
Student Unrest Reaches Tipping Points
In Prague, the Nazi forces violently suppress a student gathering to celebrate the anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia.
Young Minds and Lives Lost
The Nazis executed nine protesters without a trial on November 17.
The First International Students’ Day
Led by several refugee students, the International Students’ Council in London marks the first International Students’ Day.
History Repeats Itself in Greece
On November 17, the Greek military junta crushed the Athens Polytechnic by storming the university’s gates.
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 various 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 Student's Day
- Organize 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 worldwide.
- Talk about it
- Spread the word in your circles. Share resources and information on social media. The more people you can reach, the better.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- The first university mascot
- Yale’s ‘Handsome Dan’ was the first mascot in the history of U.S. universities.
- I.T. students can technically become pirates
- I.T. students who complete sailing, pistol, fencing, and archery classes can officially receive a pirate’s license.
- The world’s most giant scavenger hunt
- The University of Chicago holds an annual four-day scavenger hunt with a 200-mile road trip, cryptograms, challenges, and a three-course meal.
Why International Students Day Is Important
- 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.
- A celebration of youth
- Students are tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers, creators, and moral centers. Higher education helps everyone make a difference in their lives and the world. International Students’ Day celebrates young people and their rights to education.
- 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, and the protests at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University will forever inspire future generations.