In November, World Learning’s FLEX students living in Albany, New York celebrated International Education Week (IEW) 2013 by giving presentations in their host schools and introducing their host communities to the various countries and cultures of Eurasia. Shakhnoza Khalimzhanova of Kazakhstan–a junior at Hoosic Valley High School–reflects on the importance of exchanging cultures, and shares the reactions of classmates and teachers to her presentation on Kazakhstan!
It has always been my foremost goal to have the chance to be an exchange student, and to share my friendly home culture with people here in the United States! International Education Week was my best opportunity to expand my classmates’ and teachers’ knowledge of my home country, Kazakhstan. During International Education Week, I was well prepared but a little bit worried about how to represent my country. My host mum and I started getting ready for my presentation two days before; I showed them souvenirs from Kazakhstan, my national dress—which everyone told me was adorable!—and of course prepared our national Kazakh dish, ”plov.”
On the first day of my presentation when I was singing our national anthem, I found my confidence, and did not think about other things but only concentrated on talking more about my country. I think my friends and teachers enjoyed my 30 minute presentation, because they asked me a lot of questions afterwards. The most asked questions were about school life in my country. My classmates were surprised when they heard that we go to school six days a week, and that we have uniforms. My teacher commented that I study hard, while my close friend said that the reason I am so smart is because I have been studying at school six days a week! One of the funniest questions came from my host brother, who asked: “Shakhnoza, do you have ketchup in Kazakhstan?”
Unfortunately, our class ended very quickly and everyone was so upset, but we took some nice pictures for the yearbook and ended up being late for English class! My English teacher is a nice person, and instead of getting mad at us for being late, she also started asking me questions. I also talked to my librarian and the school nurse, and answered their questions about my experience at an American high school.
The next day was even more interesting, because I continued to teach my classmates and host school about Kazakhstan. My classmates, various teachers from my school, and I were able to eat a traditional Kazakh dish–plov–that I had cooked at home. Plov consists of rice, meat, onions, and carrots, and is cooked according to a special family recipe! We watched interesting videos about my country while we ate the food. Everyone had a lot of interest in learning my culture; they all loved my presentation, and the plov, of course! They now know a little more about Kazakhstan, and want to continue learning about my home country.
All in all, I am thankful for being able to share a little bit about my home culture. I am planning to give more presentations in my host community, and share more about my country with its all unique culture, tradition, history and friendly people.
Shakhnoza is one of 28 World Learning FLEX students in the US for the 2013-14 academic year. We are always looking for families who are interested in opening their homes to a future leader. You can learn more about becoming a host family by visiting http://blogs.worldlearning.org/flex/hosting-flex-students/