By Rijja Ahmed (YES 2018-2019, Pakistan, placed with AIFS/AYA in Timmonsville, SC)
International Education Week (IEW) presentations and cultural representation sounded challenging for me in the beginning of my exchange year. I was filled with excitement but worried as well. But as the week got closer, I started getting prepared and making plans for presentations in different places throughout the week. It turned out to be more fun than I expected.
I gave presentations at my high school, a middle school, a church, and the university where my host mom was a professor. I talked about different aspects of my culture and the audience loved learning about my food, clothes, currency, and language. Some even wanted to visit my country! The best part was definitely the henna tattoos that I did on their hands. Not only the girls, but the boys also seemed quite amazed and interested in the tattoos!
I had presentations with other exchange students from different countries that were a part of my group in the placement organization. I really appreciate my host mom, local coordinator, and my high school teachers for letting me present in different places. IEW enabled me to break stereotypes, learn about other cultures, and build a beautiful bond of love and friendship. I got to interact with people who were filled with positivity and enthusiasm to accept the differences among cultures and promote love and peace in society. The quote "not better, not worse, just different" explains everything!
It makes me nostalgic and sad to think back on, but I am happy to say that I am still connected to my host family, my local coordinator, my high school friends, and other exchange students from my country and other countries as well!