YES Programs



Bringing Pakistani Culture to Arkansas

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By Azima Dhanjee, YES 2013-2014, Pakistan

I am Azima Dhanjee, a YES student from Pakistan. I am currently residing in Royal, Arkansas and am enrolled in the 11th grade at Lake Hamilton High School. Belonging to a big city back home in Pakistan, a lot of people claimed that living in Arkansas was going to be difficult because it is hard for a city girl to live in the country. However, now I am proud to show all these people that in my first three months in the United States, I still made the best out of all the blessings Arkansas has and am confident in claiming that Arkansas is one of the best states with the friendliest people, which makes my life over here the best. I have experienced a lot of new and exciting things, participated in some unique activities, and had some notable achievements. Highlights for me have included: being part of five different clubs at my school; walking in the homecoming parade; winning the YES Monthly Evaluation Competition in August; performing community service; working on a video, which will serve as an advertisement on a website; being nominated by my teacher as one of the best students at my school; and getting nominated to apply for a scholarship to attend Washington DC’s university. In addition to these, organizing a celebration of Eid-ul-Adha and presenting my country and culture during International Education Week were very meaningful for me.

The purpose of an exchange student is to teach others about their culture, and to learn about a culture, one of the best ways is to experience it. Therefore, as Pakistani ambassadors, Nabeel Lal and I decided to celebrate one of our most important festivals, Eid-ul-Adha, on October 12, in Arkansas to let our friends and families experience a Muslim festival and learn about it. Eid-ul-Adha is a Muslim Celebration in which we sacrifice goats and cows in the name of God. We did not perform this activity in America, but we invited our friends to experience one day in Pakistan by staying in America. We cooked Pakistani dishes, applied henna tattoos on their hands, played Pakistani music and gave a short informative presentation about the festival to them. All the girls also wore shalwar kameez, which is the national dress of Pakistan. They all enjoyed it and were happy to experience a cultural exchange, in which they could experience something of a different culture without even visiting that respective area. We were proud to present our culture in a completely new way and glad that they learned so much from it. They not only got a chance to learn about it, but also passed on the knowledge to their family and friends.

Similarly, from November 18, 2013 - November 22, 2013, I gave 23 presentations for International Education Week in front of 600+ people from all different age groups. It was a great opportunity to talk to everyone about my country and to talk about the stereotypes and how to stop them. I also taught Pakistani cultural dance and Pakistani nursery rhymes to choir students. I gave everyone a flag with their name written on it (in my language). These little souvenirs and a whole bunch of information actually helped them learn a lot about my country, and I am proud to have been a part of this process. The local newspaper published an article about my presentations, which not only made my parents proud, but a lot of people started getting interesting in hosting students from different countries.

Other than all these amazing opportunities, I am so blessed and happy to be able to visit five different states which include Mississippi, Texas, Maryland, Washington DC and Arkansas. These three months have given me an opportunity to explore and live a life that I always wanted to.