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Building Bridges by Sharing Cultures

Learning about another country and its culture in high school isn’t something regularly in the curriculum. Even after high school, classes about other nations are simply electives to choose from.

The Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program helps to build on what students may or may not know about other countries by requiring program participants to give presentations on their home countries, cultures, and exchange experiences.

International Education Week (IEW) is a week-long celebration of all the benefits worldwide exchange has to offer. Created by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, IEW promotes programs that attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences, according to the IEW website.

IEW is a time for students in the YES program to give their presentations. Getting a head start on the requirement, Maryam (current YES student, Bahrain) recently presented to her classmates about her home country.

Bahrain is the third smallest nation in Asia, with a population just over 1.3 million. The country consists of one main island, Al Bahrayn, and a handful of smaller islands and islets.

Having always been nervous speaking in front of crowds, Maryam was unsure of how her presentation would go. Required to give at least one presentation as a YES participant, Maryam needed to overcome these nerves. Once she realized how interested her classmates were, she had no trouble sharing information about her home.

Maryam the day of her presentation, with her home country of Bahrain’s flag on the screen.

“I felt really comfortable talking in front of my classmates because they all listened carefully and were really respectful,” Maryam said. “We also shared a lot of laughs; it was wonderful.”

What shocked Maryam’s audience most about Bahrain was the country’s snow-free, almost desert-like climate. Being accustomed to the annual Iowa winter, students at Nevada Community High School could not imagine a winter season with average temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Maryam found giving her presentation to be extremely beneficial, for both herself and her classmates. Presenting gave her confidence, and built a stronger bond among the students.

“It was definitely a great opportunity for me to inform them about the way I live back home and how different it is from living in the United States because of our culture differences,” Maryam said.

Studying abroad gives those involved the opportunity to grow and expand their cultural knowledge. Whether it’s being an exchange student, a host family, or a classmate, Maryam believes anyone can find a special connection through sharing cultures with people around the world. She believes only good can come from learning and accepting people’s differences.

“All that matters is who you are and how you treat other people,” Maryam said. “Do the good, be the good, and always spread the good.”

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