Throughout November, Ayusa students were busy sharing their cultures with their host community for International Education Week (IEW). This event sponsored by the Department of State gives exchange students the opportunity to present, teach, and connect with their host communities.
Our exchange students proved that they were excited to participate!
Ayusa’s IEW contest had many entries. All were very impressive! We had three runners up – Hana from Slovenia living in Pennsylvania, Mohamad from Israel living in Missouri, and Mashal from Pakistan living in Arizona. The grand prize winner of a Belo tour is Urooj from Pakistan living in Minnesota!
Urooj, an Ayusa YES student, is living with the Livermore family. From the start of the program, Urooj has been active in her host community and was especially excited to share the culture of Pakistan with them. Reaching over 900 people in her host community, Urooj presented to the local Rotary Club, churches and high school, at an Ayusa meeting, the Youth Advisory Board of Forest Lake, and at Cub Scout meetings! In all she made 31 presentations! Not only did Urooj give powerpoint presentations, she also shared art, prepared traditional food, taught the language and traditional games, and offered henna tattoos! Sharing the wide range of aspects of Pakistan’s culture gave an all-inclusive understanding to those who attended presentations. Urooj said it “fulfilled my role of ‘youth Ambassador of Pakistan.’ It not only helped me remove misconceptions and stereotypes...but also was able to develop a lot of new bonds in the host community and high school. A lot of people in school hallways say ‘hi’ just because they heard my presentation!”
Watch a summary of her presentations!
Hana “wanted to share as much things as possible” during International Education Week. Presenting to various clubs, including Rotary and Kiwanis, and to different schools in her host community, Hana was able to reach a wide variety of groups.
Hana was excited to share Slovenia because she found that many members of her host community did not know much about her home country, including where it was in Europe. “I think that it is very important for all the exchange students, not only for the ones from small countries, to present their countries and give people an idea how they live.” Presenting was a way for Hana to educate and share Slovenia with those who did not know a lot about her home country.
Because of her efforts in her host community, Hana was honored to be invited by the Slovenian Embassy in Washington D.C. to present during the Europe Open House in May! “I was really happy to get the opportunity and I just can’t wait for the day!”
While his host town of Belle, Missouri is small, Ayusa YES student Mohamad was able to present to 250, including his Ayusa representative, host family, and the staff and students at his small high school. Like Urooj and Hana, Mohamad also shared multiple facets of Israel’s culture and history with his community. In addition to a powerpoint presentation, he taught traditional Arabic dances to his P.E. class and worked with his Agriculture teacher to buy and cook falafel and tahini. Mohamad was able to gather everyone in his school for a presentation!
Mohamad says he “felt that I’m an ambassador of my own country…I felt I’m presenting my culture and traditions and Muslims and Arabs all around the world in a perfect way that is shown in a totally different way in the media!...This experience made me proud more of myself as it is one of my successful and astonishing achievements in this year!”
Mashal, also an Ayusa YES student, spent a lot of time pulling together the details for her presentations to over 800 people. She shared many aspects of Pakistan and its culture, including the food, dances, the language, education system, and the beautiful landscape. Not only did she give many presentations, Mashal offered to give her classmates henna tattoos and taught many traditional dances as well as cricket!
One of her teachers at school commented on her presentation that “it broadened [the students’] horizons culturally and allowed them to contemplate that the United States culture isn’t ‘normal’ necessarily, just normal to those who grew up and live here.”
We also want to recognize our honorable mentions for the contest - Nanda from Indonesia living in Minnesota, Fatin from Thailand living in Washington, and Hinako from Japan living in Texas.
Congratulations to all of our winners! We want to thank all of our students who participated in our IEW contest! Every presentation makes an impact in your host community.