By Merima Muhic, YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ACES in Apex, NC
An event that is highly regarded in the YES community is International Education Week (IEW). IEW is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. We celebrate it while we’re in the U.S. by sharing the beauties of our countries with the communities we are hosted in. When we come back as alumni, we have a chance to do it in reverse and share our YES experiences in our U.S. host communities with our communities where we grew up. International Education Week (IEW) was celebrated on November 18-22 this year.
My personal favorite way to go about doing activities for IEW is to work with children, as they are the ones that seem to be the most interested in the different and unknown. They are also at a time in life when they completely soak up the information and remember small things that we do for them. This year, the first activity I organized for IEW was at an English Club in Sarajevo on November 21. I did three lectures for three groups of six students who are in different grades of elementary school. We compared holidays in the U.S. and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with me sharing my experience but also hearing what they knew about U.S. traditions and their ideas for how they could take some of those customs to apply in their own celebrations. It was amazing to see so many of the children come out of their comfort zones to talk about something so simple, yet special – holidays. We even made sure to sneak in some new vocabulary words and practice verb tenses in English.
The second activity was on November 22 at the SOS Social Center Hermann Gmeiner, a center for vulnerable children and youth in Sarajevo. Together with two volunteers, I spent the morning with 40 children, painting, drawing, telling stories, and making a parallel between holidays in the U.S. and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The U.S. was about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was welcoming its Statehood Day on November 25. Children loved hearing about the celebrations of holidays in the U.S., and in return we had a chance to listen to them recite poems about the love they have for their country and to dance to songs dedicated to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The whole activity was filled with so much positivity and so many inspiring moments that it left me wanting to do even more of these kinds of projects.
IEW still remains one of my favorite occasions that we celebrate as YES students and alumni. This year was probably even more special than previous years for me, as I had a chance to teach and learn with 60 children and, in so doing, to come to an even better understanding of my own holidays. Seeing how excited the children were to talk about their ways of celebrating holidays and preparing their own presentations on why the holiday is near and dear to their hearts was truly meaningful for me.