International Education Week tends to be one of the most memorable weeks of an exchange student’s year in America. The patriotism a student feels when their American communities show fascination in learning about their country is immeasurable. During the third week of November, World Link FLEX and YES Program students gave 1,075 presentations with a total audience of 30,163. This is an average of 8 presentations per student and an average reach of 227 people per student! To make their presentations memorable, students wore their traditional clothing, brought in a traditional dish for their audience to try, and taught their audience a traditional dance or song.
The World Link International Education Week Competition is designed to spur creativity to make a student’s culture more memorable to their host communities. The following World Link students did the best job in creating an “immersion” experience that allowed their audience to “walk in their shoes”. The following students truly created a lasting memory about their cultures and were selected as the winners of World Link’s International Education Week 2016 Competition.
Margi Shah (India/CA)
It was not the number of carefully planned and tailored presentations Margi did during International Education Week; it was the creative cultural sharing activities which earned her the top honor in this year’s World Link IEW Competition.
Margi took a step back and identified what makes her country and culture stand out. She welcomed her first presentation guests, children in the church nursery by applying ‘bindi’, the traditional decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead. She did a live ‘how-to’ demonstration for her peers about henna, walking them through the process. Art club learned how to do the traditional Indian art form, “Rangoli”; creating beautiful patterns out of colored sand Margi made the day before. Margi set up a two-hour lesson to share the love of India’s national game, Cricket, with youth at the non-profit sports complex. She offered a free yoga class in the park to her community to demonstrate the benefits of this Indian tradition. On top of all these activities, Margi also taught her native languages and traditional dances. She brought in and gave lessons in cooking traditional Indian dishes.
Through Margi’s creative International Education Week activities, each audience member was transported to her country by learning and experiencing what makes her culture unique.
Davit Jintcharadze (Georgia/CA)
Davit reached out to his whole community to share interesting and incredible facts about his native country. For students attending Davit’s high school, each morning during International Education Week started with their halls being flooded with Georgian music. There was also a good chance during the week they had the opportunity to attend one of Davit’s many cultural presentations. If they were in the CSI class, they learned about Georgia’s crime rates. If they were in an English class, they learned how Georgian is one of the oldest languages in the world. Spanish class was taught about the differences and similarities between Georgian and Hispanic cultures. This trend continued with all varieties of classes Davit presented to, but he didn’t contain his cultural sharing to only his high school peers. Davit spent a full day giving presentations to approximately 400 elementary children. They learned the Georgian alphabet, winning a prize if they could pronounce certain words. Davit showed them ancient and modern structures of his country and told them how to become a Peace Corp volunteer. Davit also presented to the elderly and even to City Hall. Presentations were enhanced by Davit activities. He created posters and word cards in the Georgian language, including the translations and phonetics to hand out. He made several Georgian foods for his audience to try and to gift to teachers. He performed traditional dances on several occasions, sang his national anthem and read poetry. Davit’s planning and special activities during IEW have made him a local celebrity.
Olha Zubarieva (Ukraine/IA)
The almost 900 audience members of Olha’s presentations during International Education Week were never bored. While listening to Ukrainian music, students in two cooking classes at Olha’s high school were learning how to make ‘deruny’, Ukrainian pancakes made with shredded potatoes. Sociology students learned about the 2013 Ukrainian Revolution and its influence on the Ukrainian society shown through street art. Olha’s Fashion Club peers learned how to make Ukrainian traditional dolls after learning about the country’s national clothing. Olha’s Art Club peers created beautiful works of art in a traditional Ukrainian style. Outside of her high school, Olha gave a speech to the local church and youth groups about the role of religion in Ukraine and its’ history. Middle school students were taught phrases in her native language and listened to Olha read her favorite Ukrainian poem. Another group of middle school students learned about Ukrainian wedding ceremonies, followed by being taught a traditional dance. Elementary children watched a fun Ukrainian cartoon and played a traditional Ukrainian children’s game, ‘a broken phone’. Just in time for the holidays, Olha played two songs written by Ukrainian composers on the piano for residents in a nursing home; including the well-known holiday song, “Carol of the Bells”. Both Olha and her audience members had an incredible International Education Week.
Aida Abzhaparova (Kazakhstan/IL)
There are many reasons why Aida is a finalist for the 2016 International Education Week Competition. First, Aida made each of her presentations personal. Her presentations were full of factual information and sprinkled with personal stories of her own life back in her home country, including photos of her family and friends. She gave her top five reasons of why she wanted to be an exchange student, talked a little bit about her experience so far, promoted the importance of hosting for the American family, and encouraged her audience to consider becoming an exchange student themselves. Second, she wanted her peers to be able to continue to learn about her culture well after IEW was over and even after she went back home so she created an online chat room called “Question-Answer”. Her peers could and still can ask her questions about her unique country any time they would like. She also used this tool as a way to improve the quality of her presentations by taking their feedback and comments to heart. Finally, Aida reached out to her entire community by writing an article about herself and her country for the local newspaper. Now she is getting recognized on the streets! Aida clearly made a cultural impact on her host community not only during International Education Week, but still to this day.
Dorotheea Arustei (Romania/CO)
Sharing culture through activities which are also a passion makes the country and culture being shared even more memorable. Dorotheea has a passion and a talent for music. She took this talent and applied it to cultural sharing activities for International Education Week. She serenaded children in an elementary school with a traditional Romanian song played on the oboe before another creative cultural sharing activity; creating the Romanian flag using paint and their handprints. One early morning, she woke up her music class by taking them on a journey through the evolution of Romanian music, ending with a famous boy band from the 2,000s. Dorotheea taught her Guitar class how to play a simple, but traditional Romanian piece. Most outstandingly, Dorotheea spent hours transposing a traditional Romanian tune for her bandmates to play. She used the main motif of the piece, created a simple harmony and base line, and then transposed it for all the band instruments including flute, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, baritone, and tuba. After presenting on the history of Romanian music, she introduced the piece, handed out the sheet music, and then conducted it. These activities were memorable for her audiences and her bandmates and they continued to fuel her passion even further to be an orchestra conductor.
Maryana Samaniv (Ukraine/CA) & Marina Radushynska (Ukraine/CA)
This presenting duo took their community by storm. Reaching almost 800 people, the duo took turns giving information about their country. Maryana would talk about Ukrainian schools, cities, sports, cuisine, and Christmas traditions. Marina would discuss other holidays like Easter and Ivana Kupala. She also presented on traditional clothing, traditional items, and the Ukrainian Revolution with Maryana adding in her own personal story of the event. They each discussed the FLEX Program and their experiences and expectations. To end each presentation on a high note, the two then taught their audiences a traditional Ukrainian dance. This dance was so memorable for their peers, they reported seeing it being danced during a school formal. Maryana and Marina did presentations separately as well. Marina taught her ceramics class how to make a traditional Ukrainian dwelling out of clay while Maryana was teaching her cooking class how to make ‘palyushky’, a traditional dish made of dough stuffed with potatoes. After an art class presentation, Maryana saw her peers drawing Ukrainian flower headdresses and after a Computer Science Club presentation, Marina saw her peers creating their own accounts on a popular Ukrainian social media page. Whether presenting together or separately, the two helped their American peers learn about their native country. To this day in the school hallways, American peers are saying, “Hi” in Ukrainian, and seeing if they will dance again.
Neda Bulatovic (Montenegro/CA)
Upon arriving to the US, Neda realized not many Americans knew or had heard of her native homeland. She made it her mission during International Education Week to change that; reaching over 1000 people in her host community. Neda kept her presentations interesting by letting her audience decide what they wanted to learn. One high school class wanted to learn about differences in lifestyles while another was interested in learning about the Montenegrin school system. During the week, Neda discussed topics like imports and exports, popular sports, wedding traditions, politics, and common topics like traditional foods, her native language, and art; all because those are the topics her audiences were curious about. Presentations with children were more active, teaching them her traditional dance. The Girl Scouts were delighted while during their lessons she had them pause for the popular ‘Mannequin Challenge”. When a cafeteria full of students starting clapping for her as she walked in, the impact of her presentations was clear. By the end of the week, Neda’s audience members were able to correctly color in her small country when giving printed maps of Europe; proving her country would be remembered for a lifetime.
Sabrina Marina Condrat (Moldova/CA)
A great way to remember something is to create it with your own two hands. Sabrina used this technique in her presentations as a way for her audience to remember a little something about her home country. For her favorite class; Art Studio, Sabrina brought in the necessary supplies for her peers to make a ‘mărțișor’, a traditional pin worn to celebrate the beginning of spring in her home country. After telling the legend of these pins and their historical significance, each of her peers created their own. Sabrina was delighted to see the pins worn on her classmates’ clothing and backpacks. During an elementary school presentation, Sabrina presented on her national flag and what it symbolized. She then passed out blue, yellow, and red paper so the children could construct the flag themselves. Girl Scouts troops were treated to a traditional dish and dessert, taught the national anthem and dance, and then were given coloring pages Sabrina made of national symbols and clothes for a little extra Moldovan fun at home. Due to Sabrina’s cultural sharing creativity, these audience members have a little token to remember her and her country.
Kashaf Mujeeb (Pakistan/CA)
Giving presentations full of cultural sharing activities to almost 1,000 people is a great way to help break the negative stereotypes about a country. Kashaf reached out to students of all ages to show what her native country is really like. With young children, Kashaf taught them fun famous dances, had them write their names in Urdu on paper shaped like Pakistan, taught them phrases in Urdu and gave out flag pins and candies as little prizes for creative questions. One elementary class surprised her when leaving by saying, “Thank You” in Urdu in unison. Middle school students were treated to learning about Pakistan’s diverse landscapes, colorful cultural dresses, and bright traditional festivals. They also got to hear Kashaf speak her native tongue and try their hand at writing their names in Urdu. Kashaf reached out to students at two different local high schools. This age group was treated to traditional dishes like ‘samosas’ and a garbanzo bean salad called, ‘channa chat’ to taste her culture. The audience passed around traditional shoes and Pakistani currency to see her culture first-hand. They also learned Kashaf’s favorite traditional game, ‘pitthu Garam’, and got henna tattoos; leaving some longer lasting cultural marks to remember her and her country. At the beginning of Kashaf’s presentations, students pointed at countries on a map, attempting to pinpoint where Pakistan was located. Thanks to Kashaf, after International Education Week, they no longer need to guess.
Hiba Kammoun (Tunisia/CA)
Hiba used her passion for teaching to get her audiences to remember her and her country. Hiba gave fun pop quizzes as a tool for retaining information. After giving presentations on her country, she gave out cultural souvenirs as rewards for correct answers to her questions. She also had her peers color in her national flag with facts and information they learned about her country. Hiba not only presented in three French classes, she also taught French lessons. After presenting, Hiba gave her peers practice worksheets in collaboration with the French teacher. The classes were so impressed, they asked her to be the teacher’s aide. As a way to reach students outside of the classroom, Hiba partnered with another exchange and put up colorful display boards in the school cafeteria. Students who came to see their boards and learn about their countries were treated to some traditional Tunisian food after answering correctly to their cultural questions, of course. As a trick to get young children to pay attention to her presentation, Hiba started it with her own version of the game, “Simon Says” she created in which she set rules to follow along with some active stretches to release some of their high energy. These teaching techniques ensured Hiba’s host community to remember her and her country for a lifetime.
Baraa Sawaed (Israel/IL)
The reason Baraa wanted to be an exchange student on the YES Program was to be able to share her culture with Americans. Baraa accomplished this mission by giving cultural presentations to her entire school during International Education Week. For the whole week, classes at her school took a field trip down to see her cultural display which was full of traditional items and artifacts. On top of these field trips, Baraa cooked ‘tabouli’ for 50 of her peers in her history class and then taught them how to make it. She also gave cultural presentations during the lunch hours and in various classes, covering topics such as tourism, wedding ceremonies, literature, and famous historical structures. Eighth graders were excited to try their hand at writing in Arabic after learning about Baraa’s culture, the YES Program, and her American experience. After her presentation, the students expressed interested in becoming exchange students themselves someday. Baraa wanted to thank her peers and teachers for all their support since her arrival, so she made each student and teacher a personalized gift to take home. The gift had their names in both Arabic and English, as well as quotes. This activity took her days to prepare, but it was worth it when she saw her teacher’s display their gifts on their classroom doors. It was important to Baraa upon her arrival to fulfill her duty of being a cultural ambassador. It is safe to say it was a job well done.
World Link would like to thank all current program students for making International Education Week 2016 a huge success.