Luqman (center) with other area PAX students at the International Festival of Indianapolis

Big Planning, Big Audiences

I started International Education Week (IEW) with high hopes to change the view of Muslims and Middle Eastern people. For almost everyone I have met here, I am the only person they have ever met who is from the region of North Africa and the Middle East. I knew that I had to work hard and plan accordingly, so I did! 

I started by attending the International Festival of Indianapolis alongside some of my exchange student colleagues. For a whole day, I wore my traditional clothes, danced, and taught people about my country's traditional dancing, my traditional clothes, culture, and all about Libya. I had a blast getting all sorts of questions and compliments about my traditional clothes (zbon). 

Two weeks before IEW started, I was working hand in hand with teachers who helped me get a bigger audience. At Franklin Community Middle School, the social studies teacher helped me organize a full-day presentation to all the seventh graders. My Key Club sponsor teacher, who is also head of the Foreign Languages Department, helped me give a big presentation to most of the students taking a foreign language at our high school. And my English teacher helped me present in his class and sent invitations to all of the teachers in the English Department. That presentation was attended by three English classes, different teachers from the department, and even our former sheriff was there! One more big presentation that required careful planning was with my Computer Science teacher who is also the PCC (Preparing for College Careers) class teacher for all the freshmen in school. He invited me to speak about the exchange programs available for American high schoolers, so I spoke about YES Abroad and programs PAX offers in addition to talking about my country and culture and why we all celebrate IEW.

These presentations were the biggest and the ones I really enjoyed, because they allowed me to influence people I normally do not see and people I do not have classes with. I really enjoyed the curiosity and innocence of all the questions and how people would apologize after asking if I wear my traditional clothes to school thinking I would be offended. I love how everyone was interested in exchange programs and appreciated what I was doing.

I also presented to all my regular classes, because I wanted to educate my friends about my country, the place that made me and formed the Luqman they know today. Honestly, my favorite presentations were those I gave to my friends, where we exchanged a lot of questions and answers and danced Libyan style.

I ended the week with a total of 15 presentations and a total audience of almost 500 people. IEW will always have a special place in my heart; it definitely is a story I will be telling my children in the future—a story about a week that was worth celebrating what was given to me!

—Luqman (YES, Libya), hosted by the Stanziano family (IN)