“You are my Pakistani sister”, the cutest thing ever happened to me was when I got to listen these words from a second grader with a warm hug she gave me after listening to one of my IEW(International Education Week) presentations. IEW, the best week of mine in America can be described in one word and that is fabulous. It was fabulous not only because I got the opportunity to tell people about my home country, Pakistan, but also because I came to know how small efforts can bring big changes. During my stay in U.S for the past three months, I had been asked many questions which gave me an idea of what people think Pakistan is. I tried to answer all the questions people asked me but I always thought of a platform where I could be able to convey my ideas to masses. Actually I was not able to talk to millions of people in my host community as I am living in a small town but fortunately, I almost talk to every member of my town, I believe. I prepared myself for IEW since I got to America because I knew the core reason of me coming here is representing my country and contributing something towards making the world a better place to live.
It’s worth mentioning that I got the opportunity to represent my country in front of my whole school before IEW because it was easy for the school authority to schedule. It was really a good experience talking to a gathering of more than 300 hundred people about Pakistan. As it was the very first time I was presenting to my fellow students at school so I focused on things that I thought will catch their attention. I talked about teenagers in Pakistan, presented a Pakistani folk dance and then I talked about some of the stereotypes Americans have of Pakistan and tried to change them by providing different evidences.
Finally IEW, the week I had been anxiously waiting for since I got here arrived. I had a lot of stuff planned for many classes in my school but at the first day I wanted to do something where students can have fun so that they would be more interested in knowing about Pakistan in rest of the week, so at the very first day of IEW, I planned two presentations one in Gym and other for kids with disabilities. Both of the presentations were admired by the audience but the one I did in Gym was loved by every person present there, what I did in Gym was I together with my Gym classmates made two groups and after demonstration of a sport named “Kabbadi” we had lots of fun playing it. This way of presenting my country was different and it was loved by everyone who participated, who then helped me arrange my other presentations also.
First day of IEW went awesome because I focused on the idea of “Learning with fun” so that is why I centered all my presentation accordingly. Overall in high school I did 11 PowerPoint presentations and I tried my best to make it fun also by doing folk dances, singing national songs including national anthem (I really felt proud when the people who had many stereotypes about Pakistan stand up in honor of my national anthem after listening to my presentation), dressing people with Pakistani clothes beside wearing Pakistani clothes myself and by teaching my audience some of the phrases in Urdu, my national language.
I also wanted to present my country in front of the younger kids so I went to the local elementary school where I got to experience some of the most unforgettable movements of my life, I presented 7 presentations there in which I told them about where Pakistan is, what are the kids in Pakistan like, we also have cars to travel not the camels (as most of them asked me if we have cars in Pakistan or not) and I did some of the fun activities like asking them questions, dressing them up, showing them videos and writing their names in Urdu (it was funny because they first thought I am drawing not writing ).
I did my presentations in front of almost each and every student and teacher in my school and in elementary school but I also wanted to present in front of the senior citizens so I did a presentation about Islam in general and Pakistan in particular in the church after getting approval by the preacher. I showed them a small presentation about Pakistan and let them ask me questions for rest of the time; I knew that they had a lot to ask. Other than this I also got the opportunity to represent my country in the Harvest dinner, where I was actually supposed to do community service but after completing my job, I sat down with the people and spoke with them about Pakistan. It’s worth mentioning that I also got the opportunity to speak to two classes in Alfred State about marriages in Pakistan during IEW
My experience in IEW was awesome and it is probably the best week of mine in U.S. I was asked a lot of questions but some of them which I loved to answer were; are you already arranged to someone to marry in your future? I said “we should not talk about the marriages as arranged or love marriages, they can be arranged and love marriage which is happening in Pakistan”, what do you say about the girl recently attacked by terrorists in Pakistan? I said “there is good and evil everywhere in the world, same is with Pakistan, and we have people like Malalla, promoting peace in Pakistan and also like the people who attacked her. So it is a global problem, not only restricted to Pakistan”. During one of my presentation in U.S history, a boy asked me “Is there any war like thing going on in Pakistan, I mean is it true what they are showing on the TV?” I answered him by saying “I can’t say what they are showing on TV is not true but I can say it’s not all about Pakistan. I mean there are things people need to know about peace in Pakistan also and hopefully you now know much more about Pakistan than they show on T.V.”
It was an awesome experience not just because I presented my country at every possible place I could but other than this it made me a good public speaker; gave me the opportunity to know more people; make new friends and most of all it made most of the people say that what they watch through media about Pakistan is not all about it. I loved IEW because it is full of unforgettable movements like dancing with your French teacher, singing a song with your American friends which they even don’t know the meaning of, playing your native games in Gym, getting lots of hugs from young kids who remind you of the fact that kids are kids they just understand to love and being invited by the people for dinner you didn’t even know before.
At the end I would like to thank YES program and AYA for giving me such a great opportunity to make a difference to help make the world a better place to live in. I wish that it was International Educational Month instead of International Educational Week.