International Education Week (IEW) – a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education – is a part of a national effort to promote programs that prepare Americans with 21st century skills in today’s globalized world and to attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange life experiences with Americans. Each year IEW takes place the week before Thanksgiving, allowing YES students across America to give thanks for the once-in-a-lifetime scholarship opportunity by sharing about themselves, their countries, and their cultures. YES students gave over 4,600 presentations to an audience of nearly 125,000 Americans in over 530 communities across all 49 YES-hosting states plus the District of Columbia!
IEW gives YES students across the United States the opportunity to educate Americans about their countries and cultures, and gives YES alumni around the world the opportunity to educate their countrymen about America and her peoples. In sharing of themselves, YES students and alumni simultaneously build bridges of mutual understanding and friendship in the place of negative stereotypes, xenophobia, and islamophobia. This year alone, IEW presentations took place in over 800 schools across America, and nine out of every ten YES students shared pictures, postcards, or artwork from their country as a part of their presentation. The impact of their week-long efforts creates a ripple effect that can only be described as monumental and enduring!
During the five days of IEW, YES student Collins Tadjon from Cameroon (picture on the left), hosted by CIEE in Saint Paul, MN, gave two presentations at his school, Metro Deaf School, to more than 70 students and staff. He reflects on the week, saying, “I spoke about my history, politics, traditional meals, and traditional clothes. The students in my school liked my traditional meals. I loved speaking about in my country! In my school, students asked [many] questions about the presentation! Although I wore a traditional vest for part of my presentation, I took it off to pass them around so that the blind students at my school could feel the embroidery.”
Collin’s success isn’t the only impactful result of IEW. Md Mehsan from Bangladesh (AYSUA/Minneapolis, MN) shared that “everyone wanted to know more about my culture even after I had finished my presentation!”
Marija Andreevska, a YES student from Macedonia, hosted by AFS-USA in Arizona, states that one of the amazing parts of IEW was when someone would come up to her after her presentation, curious for more details about her country or perhaps keen on doing an exchange themselves. “It was also great when people I haven't met recognized me and said I did an interesting presentation. Everybody liked the food and complimented on how unique and beautiful my traditional dress was.”
Undoubtedly, many YES students share the sentiments expressed by Huda from Pakistan, hosted by AFS-USA in South Carolina: “IEW is the best week to tell others about YES, our countries, and to help overcome stereotypes! This is the best week in my exchange year so far!”
For YES students, the week is packed full of presentations, questions, dancing, and purpose. Over 700 YES students made presentations about their home country to elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as to places of worship and community centers throughout their host communities. “Thank you to YES and to the U.S. State Department for giving me the chance to impact 465 people's opinion about Tunisia as they will always see it differently now,” shared Wiem, hosted by CIEE in Missouri.
International Education Week brought a wonderful exchange of ideas, culture, and respect to YES students and their host communities. To the YES Alumni community worldwide, thank you for continuing to share about your unique American experiences in your home communities.
Thank you to each YES student for sharing about themselves and their country and culture, and thank you to each host family for sharing your home with an exemplary YES student!