December 2019, Vol. XXV, No. 4

Article Index


PAX Press Web Cover December Horizontal


International Education Week 2019

It's no secret that we're passionate about exchange in particular and crazy curious about the world in general. That's no doubt why we find International Education Week (IEW) so incredibly inspiring—we just love hearing the student recaps!

Of course, they all have a great deal of fun dressing up in their national costumes and sharing quirky parts of their cultures (we all have them), but they come away from the experience with so much more than they expect. Year after year, students share their surprise that their audience was really interested and asked many questions. Often, the biggest lesson they take is that if you really try and really put yourself out there, people tend to respect and respond to that.

Naturally, IEW is also an important opportunity for students to learn more about their own cultures and develop public speaking skills. Whatever lessons PAX students took from IEW 2019, we're certainly very lucky they're willing to share it all with us! We hope you enjoy perusing them as much as we do.

—The PAX Press team


2) Contest Winner: Hamad (YES, Pakistan)

Hamad poses with Jordan Rodriguez, Director of International Affairs at the Indianapolis Mayor's Office. In addition to his more than 75 presentations, Hamad interviewed Mr. Rodriguez, his high school principal, and others about the importance of international education.


Cherishing Diversity during International Education Week

International Education Week (IEW) was one of the greatest experiences I've had in the U.S. so far. Not only did I have the privilege and honor of representing my country and sharing my culture as a true ambassador, but I got to learn and celebrate cultures of other countries from other exchange students. I gave presentations in all of my classes for five days, in churches in my community, and at community centers like the YMCA and the Center for Interfaith Co-Operation. At each place, I presented about my home country of Pakistan and shared some of our culture, traditions, and values.

I also had deep and meaningful conversations about religion, and one of my presentations primarily focused on debunking the notion that religion incites violence or that Muslims are extremists and radicals. I played a quiz game called Kahoot with the classes I presented to and gave the top winners a small prize! I showed them Pakistani currency (rupees) and other items which they were very excited to see. I also had the opportunity to talk to my school principal and the director of international affairs at the mayor's office in Indianapolis about my country and the importance of cultural exchange.

I even made a traditional dish called karahi from my country. For someone who was cooking for only the second time in his life, it turned out pretty great! I also got to taste some delicious dishes from other countries at the international dinner event hosted by my community coordinator.

Overall, IEW was an enlightening experience, and I feel I gained a sense of global community and learned how to engage with it and cherish our diversity!

—Hamad (YES, Pakistan), hosted by the Everett family (IN)


3) International Education Week

"I was too concerned about making mistakes during my presentations! In order to overcome that, I kept practicing until I memorized the whole thing perfectly. After that, I also practiced for my host family."

—Seoyeon (South Korea), hosted by the Adams family (IN)

Big Planning, Big Audiences

Libyan high school exchange student in traditional dress, sitting on map of world 

I started International Education Week 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!

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Celebrating Indonesia

Indonesian exchange student with Indonesian flag classroom presentation 

I have been learning about a new culture for three months in the U.S. In November, it was my turn to introduce Indonesia to the people of Indiana!

For International Education Week (IEW), I organized a celebration at Whiteland Community High School with other exchange students and the Culture Club. We made a proposal to school administrators...

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Ukrainian Soul of IEW

Teenage girl with traditional Ukrainian dress giving the peace sign 

 For me, this week was emotional. Since I am in some ways a perfectionist, my task was to make everything perfect, so that everybody will remember not only me but most importantly, about Ukraine.

Therefore, I gave all my time and energy to preparing my presentation. There were a million ideas, so the hardest thing was...

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4) More International Education Week!

"I enjoyed telling them about my country and culture, because it gave me time to think of all the good things that happen in my country."

—Roda (PAX Means Peace Scholar, Somaliland), hosted by the Burtchaell family (OR)


5) What Else?

"I'm building some great memories with my family and friends from school. Some events in life are so special that the memory stays with you forever, and every moment I spend here is a special memory I want to remember forever."

—Fatima (YES, Pakistan), hosted by the Gilpatric family (WI)

Turning Dreams into Reality

Exchange student Tilyan from Pakistan poses with her host mother 

I still find it a dream when I see myself living with an American host family. It means the world to me—not because they are the only people I know in the USA, but because they are the best people I have ever met in my life.

Two years ago, I had no idea I could have a family in another part of the world, but this exchange year has made it possible.

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Future American Farmer?

Teenage girl from Indonesian in front of Future Farmers of America sign 

In November, I joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA) without any clue what it was. Fast forward to the first big opportunity: a Foundations in Reaching Excellence (FIRE) Conference.

I initially thought that since my FFA chapter was paying the admission cost, why not give it a shot? I wouldn’t have guessed that it would be so very beneficial to me. 

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Folksy, Phone-Free Weekend

Exchange students at Thai culture stand 

I had my cultural activity with my community coordinator and other exchange students. It was so much fun. We had a phone-free weekend which allowed us to interact more and get to know each other better.

We went on a hike to the Fox River and played team building games, had a leadership activity, and played American games!

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6) Students of the Month

Each month, PAX's Sponsored Programs Department identifies one extraordinary Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program student respectively. These standout students become PAX's official nominations for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' "Student of the Month" award.

FLEX December Nominee

Katya Ukraine OH 425x425

It is with great enthusiasm that we nominate Kateryna from Ukraine, studying in North Canton, OH to be FLEX Student of the Month for December 2019. Kateryna (known as Katya) has approached her exchange year with a lively energy. Upon arrival to the United States, Katya was greeted at the airport by her community coordinator and her host family, whom she ran up to and embraced immediately. Her coordinator said, “…you could see the joy, excitement, and relief on her face!”

She has maintained that same enthusiasm and affection throughout her exchange experience. Katya has developed a strong bond with her host family. Her host mother says, “Katya has been a wonderful addition to our home and family.” Katya and her host mom frequently cook dinners together, sharing both American and Ukrainian recipes. Katya thoroughly enjoys spending time with her host family. She says, “I am blessed with the best host family in the world.”

Katya has attended two volunteer activities with her host family. In September, Katya and her host mom volunteered to help an elderly member of their community repaint the outside of their house; in November Katya and her host family spent an afternoon packaging boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Together, they intend to continue volunteering throughout the holiday season at food kitchens in their community.

At school, Katya’s guidance counselor has said that she is independent, self-sufficient, inquisitive, and a great addition to her high school. Katya is doing very well in her classes. She has even joined student government and the Social Justice Club. She is preparing to join the track team in the spring.

Katya’s host mom also says that she jumps at the opportunity to share about her culture and about Ukraine. Katya says that at school she loves to have discussions about culture in general and the similarities and differences between the United States and Ukraine.

Katya has been a wonderful representative of PAX’s mission of increasing mutual respect and fostering an appreciation of our differences and similarities. Katya is a fantastic ambassador of Ukraine, the FLEX program, and PAX. We are proud to nominate Katya for FLEX Student of the Month, December 2019.

—The PAX Sponsored Team

YES December Nominee

Ilham Kenya IN 425x425

PAX is excited to nominate Ilham, an exchange student from Kenya, studying in Brookville, IN, to be December’s YES Student of the Month. Ilham’s host mother is thrilled to have Ilham as part of her family. On Tuesday evenings, Ilham and her host mom have “culture day”, which was Ilham’s idea. They sit and chat about cultural differences between Kenya and the United States. Specifically, they like to discuss the similarities and differences between their religions—Christianity and Islam.

Ilham shows a lot of pride in her home country, Kenya, and is excited to be able to share her culture with others while learning more about the culture in the U.S. Ilham’s host mom says that Ilham is “a prime example” of a student making the most of their exchange year. She says that Ilham is upbeat and always open to new ideas and experiences, despite being quiet shy in the beginning—a challenge she is determined to overcome while in the United States.

Ilham wears a hijab, which is a unique feature among her classmates at Franklin County High School. This has led to Ilham answering many questions about her culture and faith, which she is happy to discuss and explain to her peers. In school, Ilham is taking a full course load and is doing exceptionally well. Her courses include Geometry, Digital Applications, Spanish, and U.S. History. She is even taking Biology II for college credit! Her teachers report that Ilham is always a pleasure to have in class—always gracious and smiling.

Already, Ilham has joined FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) club and Spanish club to get more involved in her school community. So far, Ilham has also completed 25 hours of volunteer service. Her service hours include working a bingo booth for the Cedar Grove Fire Department Festival and helping clean the yard of senior citizens in her community on the United Way “Day of Caring.” Ilham’s host mom says, “She is…bridging the gap between small town life and Kenyan life…She is just an amazing kid, and I couldn’t be more proud!”

Ilham is a model exchange student and a spectacular ambassador of Kenya, the YES program, and PAX. It is our pleasure to nominate Ilham for YES Student of the Month, December 2019.

—The PAX Sponsored Team


7) Season's Greetings!

And finally, Jack (China), Tim (Germany), and the Rubio crew would like to wish y'all a very merry Christmas from Texas!

Jack China TX