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International Education Week in the Balkans

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YES alumni and YES Abroad participants all across the Balkans have been showing their spirit for international education this month.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, YES Abroad participants visited Hamdija Kresevljakovic elementary school in Sarajevo on November 15 to present the holiday of Thanksgiving and to hold a workshop with the children who go there.  YES Abroad participants Emma Morgan and Sarah Edgar regularly tutor the students at the school in English. The YES Abroad students gave their presentation in Bosnian—no easy feat, having been in-country for less than three months.  Emma said, “After we explained the significance of the holiday, each YES Abroad student went around and said something special that their family does on Thanksgiving. It was actually really interesting since we are all from a different region of the U.S. and celebrate the holiday differently.”  The exchange students then took to arts and crafts, as they showed the children how to make hand turkeys and a chain made out of strips of paper upon which the children had written those things for which they are most thankful.  According to Emma, “It was an especially fun class because normally Sarah and I only have time to talk about sentence structure, vocabulary, and maybe play a few games.  But for this class, we got to bring our friends and talk about a piece of American culture, which I believe the kids really enjoyed.”

Also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sanda Hanjalic, a YES '10 alumna, is currently tutoring a student from the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Youth in English.  Sanda was paired with the student last year and has continued working with her each Friday for the past several semesters.  The Friday of International Education Week was no exception.  Sanda tutors as part of a larger project called “YES to English,” started by Dzenana Brkic, a YES ’12 alumna.

In Kosovo, YES alumni arranged a panel discussion at the American Corner in Pristina on the topic of being an exchange student.  Those in attendance were prospective exchange students, so they had many questions for the alumni.  They were especially intrigued to hear about the alumni’s individual experiences in the United States.

In Albania, alumni participated in an annual book fair held in Tirana from November 14-17, funded jointly by the Albanian Ministry of Culture and private book companies.  Alumni joined forces and shared a booth with Education USA where alumni handed out fliers on the YES program and answered questions related to international education and about their experience in the U.S.  Many young people who stopped by and spoke with them were in the process of applying for a YES scholarship, so visitors had the opportunity to ask many questions about American life, including what it was like to be part of a host family.

This month, Albanian alumni also plan to do individual presentations on topics such as their YES experience, U.S. history, and the American political and educational systems, in the high school they currently attend or from which they have graduated.

In Bulgaria, YES alumni organized an essay contest for high school students from across the country.  Entrants can choose to write their essay on one of two topics: “What unites people, and what separates them?” or “What are the pros and cons of interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds?”  Once all essays have been received, they will be read by alumni who’ve volunteered to be on the commission to judge the submissions.  The commission consists of Plamena Solakova (’10), Gabriella Veleva (’11), Eleonora Avramova (’11), Petar Ivanov (’13), and Alumni Coordinator Lili Valtcheva (’11). In December, alumni will make their decision and hold an award ceremony where the prizes will be English language books.  Alumni will also take this opportunity to present on their time in the United States on the YES program.

And lastly, in Macedonia, for the fourth year running, YES alumni have organized a national essay competition for high school students and a drawing contest for elementary school children.  When the essays and drawings have been received, alumni will make their decision and hold an awards ceremony for those involved.


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