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Group Picture In My Cultural Dress

By Rijja Ahmed (YES 2018-2019, Pakistan, hosted by AIFS/AYA in Timmonsville, SC)

I gave ten presentations at South Florence High School i.e. my American High School and two at Francis Marion University. Approximately, 300 students attended my presentations. My presentation had so many things and I tried to tell as many things as I could about my country.

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Many people do not know where Pakistan is and very few of them know that Bangladesh had been a part of Pakistan. So, I talked about its geographical location and history. Besides that, I told them about the life in Pakistan, including all the cultural aspects which was really fun. I told them about my language, currency, the types of clothes that we wear, the diversity, the educational system, the types of weddings that we have. Apart from all that, I also told them some interesting and fun facts about Pakistan like American singers are very popular and we also watch American movies.

I went through the most important part, which was the negativity or the obstacle between the two countries. I did not mean that whatever they heard from media or stereotypes was wrong but not everything was right. They were so astonished to know about all the positive things. I showed them the handicrafts from my country which are very traditional. The best part was the interest and acceptance that they showed of my culture when I asked to write their names in my language and do Henna; a popular tradition for girls in Pakistan.

Henna Tattoos

I was asked so many questions which were really funny such as the types of food brands we had, the types of cars we drove. Many students asked me the drinking and driving age. I think most of the students found it really strange that love marriages are not common since, our marriages are arranged by parents and we do not date. They asked me so many questions just on this topic.

It’s been two weeks since IEW ended but still many of the teachers want me to come to their classes and present, which is indeed a great pleasure for me. Therefore, I went to two different classes and presented. Now, I plan to make food for my friends as they love learning about my culture.

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My exchange year has been going great so far. I volunteer almost every week with the exchange students of my placement organization. I was required to do 50 hours of community service but I wanted to serve as much as I can because of the fact that America is my second home which has given me so many good people and so many exciting things. So, I have volunteered in theatre, tennis court, festivals and science society. My family does a lot for the horse shows. So, I also helped in distributing ribbons. I am Muslim but religion does not matter to me when it comes to serve people. Therefore, I also volunteer in churches. I have completed 75 hours of volunteering and am looking forward to do more.

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I participate in the activities with my host family and go to church on Sunday as I love learning about their religion. I have made so many friends and teachers also love me. I have all the straight A’s in all my classes. I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time and thanked my family for everything they have been doing for me. 

I have also applied for CEW and WYLET and am hopeful to fully participate in case of selection.

Looking forward to engage in as many exciting activities as I can in this short period of time!

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