Jimmy even presented to the chess club!

Boundless Energy from Lebanon to Oregon

“Culture is a window reflecting the history, culture and spiritual world of a nation; cultural exchange is a bridge to enhance the mutual friendship and understanding between the people of different nations,” said Hu Jintao, the former leader of China, when discussing the importance of learning more about other cultures. Coming from Lebanon, a diverse multicultural country, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a variety of religions, values, traditions, and backgrounds. However, I constantly felt the urge to go out there into the world and deepen my knowledge on the world’s cultures. So, I applied for YES. 

Upon getting accepted, I was asked to attend a pre-departure orientation where we were taught about International Education Week. Since that day, I made it my goal to carry my knowledge across the seas, spread knowledge about Lebanon around my host community, and teach or learn something new each day. 

It was finally November, and that was my time to shine. Gathering all my thoughts and past plans from the endless nights I spent brainstorming, I went out there, taking on the challenge. I gave my first presentation in a peer counseling club at Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon. Then, I went on, giving a presentation to every available club and sports team, every language or ethnic class, every arts or science class, showing people the various aspects of Lebanon.

With each presentation, I demolished stereotypes, and bonded with the audience on common ground. Each presentation taught me something new, but one stood out to me and inspired me on a more spiritual level. It was the presentation I gave in ASL (American Sign Language) at a deaf event at Starbucks. Not only was I lucky enough to teach them about Lebanese culture, but I also was allowed into the deaf culture, a culture that holds a whole world of affection and willpower within it. 

After giving 94 presentations, I can finally say that IEW might be over now, but the journey of cultural exchange has just begun for me. 

—Jimmy (YES, Lebanon), hosted by the Sanders family (OR)