International Panel Sparks Conversations about Different Cultures
Waukee High School (WHS) held an International Panel during blocks two and four on November 13 in the auditorium. The event began with a short film by Morten Rustad, spotlighting picturesque landscapes from around the world.
International Club sponsor, German teacher Tammy Getting, said that “We still have a lot to learn about other countries and can always expand our cultural awareness.” More than 55 different languages are spoken in the Waukee Community School District.
First-year president of the club, senior Sneha Yamsani, enjoys her role because she gets to oversee the entire operation and encourage people to join the club. Yamsani’s parents are from India and she feels that being in the International Club for two years has helped her “learn a lot more about the other cultures that students represent here.” Yamsani is receiving a lot of positive feedback about the Panel and has noticed many students expressing interest in learning more.
Zoe Carlson, Brenda Soto and Ulices Flores from Simpson College took the stage and explained the opportunities to expand cultural awareness at their school. These students are involved in several groups at their school, including a Latina Sorority, Latinos Unidos, the Multicultural Student Association and the International Student Organization.
Some students in the International Club at WHS then participated in a segment where they answered questions from the audience. The Panel was comprised of students who either have parents from another country, are from another country themselves, or are currently here because of an exchange program. The countries represented at the Panel were Vietnam, Japan, India, Bosnia, China, Germany, Brazil, Norway, Russia, Israel and Ecuador. Senior Emma Gerdis and sophomore Bailey Moyle are both from the United States, but they participate in International Club and helped run the Panel. Questions included: What are your country’s perceptions of America?, What was a cultural shock experience of yours?, What do you do in your free time in your native country?
Sophomore Vanshika Mullich, who moved here from India two years ago, feels that being a part of International Club has “made me aware of other cultures and given me a chance to know about other countries.”
Junior Mary McCormick moved here from Japan when she was seven years old. She held a “Lunch ‘n Learn” session on November 14 for anyone who was interested in learning about “the culture that has been such a huge part of my life. It was fun to share a little bit of my life with other students. People seemed to be genuinely interested in my presentation.” McCormick thinks that the Panel “was awesome because audience members asked great questions and it was inspirational to have successful student leaders from Simpson come speak to us.” International Club has impacted McCormick in many ways. She says that “when I came here initially, I had so much cultural shame, which is a huge issue for most kids who move to a different country. Not only has this club helped me accept the Japanese culture but it has also helped me to embrace it. It shows us that cultural awareness is important and that it is okay, even cool, to be different and keep cultures distinct.”
Danilo Manfre came here from Brazil in August and will remain in the United States until the end of the 2014-2015 school year. He believes that International Club “helps break the ice when you are starting out in a new country.” He enjoyed participating in the Panel because it “was a lot of fun” and it allowed him to “see lots of people that were in his situation.” According to Manfre, America and Brazil seemed very different from the start. From his first impressions, simple things like dinner time and the school atmosphere were culture shocks to him. Although it felt strange at first, Manfre has adjusted to life in America and is liking it so far.
International Club meets in Frau Getting’s room at WHS on Mondays at 7:30 a.m. and is open to anyone who wishes to expand their understanding of different cultures around the world.