Recently I had the honor of sharing my experience and knowledge about living abroad at Poudre High School’s annual IB International Day. Every year, IB students of Poudre High School organize a day dedicated to connecting cultures from around the world by bringing in speakers who have lived abroad. Under the theme of “connecting cultures,” an outstanding variety of 39 countries in total were represented during the event such as Israel, Moldova, Uruguay, and Denmark to name a few.
With pleasure I prepared my presentation in hopes of articulating my experience with the culture and traditions of Jordan and Morocco. My slides ready, my visual aids picked out and a speech practiced to perfection. Yet with all this preparation my confidence in the presentation was not due to a fear of public speaking. If I were to be completely honest, I was unsure as to how my presentation would be received by the 400 or so high school students expected to be in attendance.
Coincidentally, it was a phone call with my mother the night before which provided valuable insight as to how I ought to approach my time with the students. During our conversation my mom and I began discussing the possibility of me teaching in Saudi Arabia after graduation.
She started asking me a long list of questions as to what that would look like specifically and eventually the dialogue turned into a learning experience for my mother. “Do they speak Farsi there?” “I thought Mecca was in Israel… is it not?” “What is a pilgrimage?” “Is everyone rich from oil over there?” I was downright shocked that my own mother did not know the answers to these questions. I started to feel annoyed with her ignorance and I responded curtly.
Before my snarky attitude could go any further it was then my mom informed me that among her group of peers she was considered most informed with topics related to the Middle East and that the questions she asked “Were not common knowledge,” according to her.
That phone call brought me to an important realization. I could be the most experienced and knowledgeable traveler, I could speak a multitude of languages and understand the ins and outs of cultures, but if I am unable to share this wealth of knowledge gracefully and respectfully with my fellow Americans, then I have failed my civic duties. Sometimes I get so caught up in my passion for the Middle East that I forget that my enthusiasm can turn into pride.
So when it came time to present I reminded myself that I had no right to look down on those who have experienced life differently and not yet had the opportunity to learn.
Overall the presentation went off without a hitch. The students were fascinated with my photos and stories of Jordan and Morocco and even more they demonstrated a fervor to learn. I was pleasantly surprised to see them drawing a parallel between their lives and that of Jordanians and Moroccans.
At the end of my presentation I challenged the audience to avoid thinking in terms of “weird,” but instead replace that with “different.” One student in particular approached me afterwards and said this was his first time being exposed to Moroccan and Jordanian culture.
He began to explain that the only thing about Jordan he had known previous to the presentation was what he witnessed on American media.
“This is the first time I actually feel I have commonality with people in Morocco and Jordan. I used to think it was all bombs and American flag burning over there, but now I have a different perspective to go off of,” he said to me before he quickly thanked me and walked away with a curious look on his face.
Whether you are on the receiving end of knowledge or the one dispensing said information, it is crucial to keep your pride on the back burner and speak with grace because you never know how your words might influence those around you.
Brooke Lake is fortunate enough to be able to share her international experiences with others. Feedback and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I realized when presenting that there are many people that don’t know much about what happens internationally.
What I deem “common knowledge” is not necessarily true for everyone else.
I understand that it is part of my civic duty to share my experience worldwide with others.