YES students from around the world share how they acted as cultural ambassadors during International Education Week and made an impact in their communities.
Exchanging Cultures through IEW
By Duresa Rushiti (YES 2019-2020, North Macedonia, hosted by ACES in Corning, CA)
Being an exchange student has a lot of meanings, one of them is also exchanging our culture with the people we meet while we are here. IEW gives us the greatest opportunity to do that. On November 18, our PO made an arrangement with an elementary school for us exchange students to go and present about our countries there. We did 9 presentations starting with kindergarteners to 8th graders, each of us had a classroom and the students would rotate through the day to different classrooms with different countries in them. The kids were really curious and asked a lot of questions, I also made them dance to a song we play in weddings. After the day was over I received a lot of thank you cards from them, saying how thankful they were that we went there and how they were planning to visit me and my country one day. On November 22, I did two more presentations at my school, my friends were fascinated that a country that small has a big history filled with traditions.
Finding Joy in Representing my Country
By Rudmila Islam (YES 2019-20, Bangladesh, hosted by AYUSA in New Oxford, PA)
Imagine the scenario where you have the opportunity to represent your culture and country globally so you can make your country proud and be a better citizen and be proud of yourself too? That's exactly what the YES program has given me. Being an exchange student from Bangladesh and an ambassador of my country in the U.S. is has come with some incredible opportunities. One such opportunity was International Education Week, the perfect time to represent your country and culture to my American community.
Last week I gave 3 presentations to more than 200 people who were mostly high school and elementary school students. I presented the history and emergence of my independent nation, the beauty that my country is blessed with, the enriched and colorful culture, the vibrant and joyful festivals, the mouth-watering and flavorful food,s and also the immense bond that the Bangladeshi people have in my country and how they respect and embrace cultural and religious diversity. Last but not least, I have made one of the most popular Bangladeshi snacks, Alur Chop (Potato cutlet), for my history class so that they can also experience the food. Though I was worried about how they will react about the spiciness of the food, they totally loved it!
Besides I also showed some of the woodworks that I've brought from my country which represents different aspects of my country and the culture during my presentations. Besides I taught them how to speak Bengali language, which they loved a lot. Seeing other students become mesmerized by the history and culture of my country, wanting to know more about it, and even wanting to learn Bengali language and how their name would look like in Bengali was priceless. It really filled my heart with joy to see their excitement and curiosity about Bangladesh, its food, and its festivals.
I am really glad to be a scholar of the K-L YES program which gave me this wonderful opportunity to connect with people and represent my country in the U.S. Through the YES program I am able to make the change, to be the change, and to make my country proud.
Best Part of My Exchange Year
By Aliyan Sardar (YES 2019-20, Pakistan, hosted by PAX in Hixton, WI)
I believe IEW was the best part of my exchange experience so far. Before starting a presentation, I asked everyone if anyone knew anything about Pakistan. I learned a lot of new information from them that was funny, I presented the Pakistani national anthem on a rabab, a Pakistani cultural instrument. After that, all the questions started pouring in. I was asked some interesting and funny questions. I really enjoyed answering each and every one of them. I mostly enjoyed presenting to the elementary classes because they had some really good questions. This one kid saw me dressed up in the national outfit and thought I was Aladdin. He was so curious that he asked me if Aladdin was from Pakistan and I found that really cute. In a net shell, IEW was a really great opportunity for me to represent my country and to remove any kind of stereotypes.
Dear International Education Week, Thank You!
By Reetika Singh (YES 2019-20, India, hosted by AYUSA in Clifton, VA)
Before my journey as an exchange student started, I knew how empowering the opportunity to present my home country and culture could be. However, International Education Week came along and taught me that this opportunity is so much more.
IEW was so hectic but I believe it gives so much power to students like myself to go out there and experience the incredible feeling of sharing cultures and making a difference by creating a more understanding and just community.
I did about 25 presentations during IEW which included discussions over social media and powerpoint presentations in my host School, Centreville High School, here in Virginia. the response by all of my classmates was so humbling. People were interested in knowing more about my country, the program, and my experience. And I got asked so many questions about Indian traditions which I never expected. I also made traditional food for my American friends and teachers which included "Samose" a popular Indian snack which everyone loved. From presenting one of the many dance forms from India to special children to watching a Bollywood movie with subtitles with host family (what better cultural sharing than am authentic movie from India), IEW was an exciting experience. I also realized that I learned a lot more about my own culture and traditions too.
I can take full pride in saying that the IEW week has been the most exciting yet knowledgeable week of my exchange year up till now and it gave my memories that would last me a lifetime.
Representing Suriname during IEW
By Jaanvi Marte (YES 2019-20, Suriname, hosted by STS Foundation in AZ)
IEW was a very special week for me. Coming from a small country Suriname, this chance to represent my country was amazing This week more people got to know where Suriname is and how we spend our life living there. During IEW I went to a private high school with around 60 kids and presented about my country. I played “True or False” with facts about Suriname, I taught them Dutch words by giving them a piece of paper with a word and letting them pronounce it and asking them to guess what it means. I also presented in my school where I interacted by asking the students what questions they have for me and in one of the classes I gave away my Suriname hat to the person who answered all the questions correctly.
Being a Cultural Ambassador
By Umama Ahmed (YES 2019-20, Pakistan, hosted by AIFS/AYA in Killeen, TX)
IEW week has been the best week of my exchange year. I did a lot of presentations during IEW in my school. I made my traditional food and shared it with my classes and teachers and everybody loved it. I also did henna tattoos. I wore my cultural clothes for my presentations and I received different questions from different people and answering them was amazing. I also learned about America while giving presentations. I learned about the differences and similarities between the U.S. and Pakistan. I am thankful to KL-YES and AYA for this wonderful opportunity.