By Hashir Mubeen (YES 2022-2023, Pakistan, placed by AFS-USA in Mukwonago, WI)
Representing your country as a cultural ambassador is something that not everybody gets to do. International Education Week (IEW) was an opportunity that I didn't want to miss. I had been preparing for this week even before coming to the U.S. I had bought traditional handicrafts, clothing, flags, and gifts for my host family, friends and fellows. Before the week started, I went around asking teachers at my high school if they could give me time to present in their class and I was over the moon when almost every teacher said "yes!".
International Education Week kicked off on November 14th. I woke up a lot earlier than regular days with a burst of excitement. I wore shalwar kameez, which is the national attire of Pakistan; it includes a colorful waistcoat black Peshawari sandals, Sindhi topi, which is a traditional cap on my head and, my favorite, a Pakistani flag pin sparkling in front of my heart.
The exhilaration of going to school on that day was just on another level, but still I was a bit worried, some questions were constantly striking my mind. Would my peers like my presentation? Will it be too boring for them? Will they consider me weird for wearing a different outfit? What if I fail to represent my country?
But just as I stepped in the high school building, all my fears and concerns vanished. Everyone was complimenting me on my dress, students were coming up to greet me and asking me different questions about my clothing. That was the moment which defined IEW for me. I decided at that point that I would give my best and do everything possible to make this week a memorable one. I gave 15 presentations during the whole week, to almost 300 people including high school students, teachers, and staff.. Students asked so many questions about Pakistani folklore, sports, and even social media - I loved answering all the questions and I had never imagined such a positive response.
I started my IEW presentation describing my past two months living in the U.S., and sharing some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Pakistan. I also shared photos of my friends, family, and school back home. After that, I would share everything about Pakistan including music, food, language, sports, culture, religion, art, and fun facts. I even had my peers participate in a quiz after my presentation! All of the students were so delighted about the traditional gifts that I brought them from Pakistan. I concluded every presentation with the national anthem of Pakistan and a Q&A session.
The 300 people who listened to me will hopefully pass on everything that they learned about Pakistan to others and spread the impact. I feel so proud that I was able to clear the misconceptions about my country and represent Pakistan. I will forever be thankful to my host family, friends, and to all the people who attended my presentations. I would also like to thank the U.S. Department of State and the YES program for giving me the best week of my life.