Sifatul Keeping Busy During IEW
YES student from Bangladesh answers questions about his home country at an event in Indiana during International Education Week
Sifatul fielding questions at the Indianapolis Cultural Festival

I believe that I worked really hard representing Bangladesh during this International Education Week. I did 48 presentations altogether at my school, church, and a performing arts studio in addition to various community programs and clubs. During that week, I spent more than 23 hours giving presentations. I was able to engage more than 720 people. I gave presentations on more than 20 topics and not just on the positive aspects of my culture.

I believed that I should not only tell people the good things about Bangladesh. I felt I should let them know about hard situations which we face as a developing country. In each of my presentations, I included three parts, one was for history (topics were geographic location, liberation war, language movement, Bangladesh as a British Colony, etc.), one for serious issues (education system, poverty, relationship with India, genocide in Myanmar of Rohingya and refugees in Bangladesh, Bangladesh and the United Nations, etc.), and one was fun topics (national game and how to play it, childhood sports, festivals, seasons, foods, attire, etc.). I gave my audiences the option to choose what they would like to know. I got really good feedback on my presentations.

To be honest, all of my presentations were a good experience for me. As I did many presentations, I will do my best to describe my experiences.

PROJECT 1: I believe that charity begins at home. In my country people usually eat food by hand. During IEW, there was a Bangladeshi community program by Indiana University to which I was invited and I taught my host brother and my exchange brother how to eat rice and other items of food without any fork, spoon, or knife. It was fun for all of us.

PROJECT 2: There is a community program named First Lego League State Qualifier Challenge. I was volunteering there as an official photographer. I talked to the program director and he agreed to spare me some time for my presentation. I was astonished to see that some kids already knew many things about Bangladesh. There were more than 120 people in total and they loved my presentation.

PROJECT 3: I gave presentations to six groups in KAT's Performing Arts Studio. I was in my traditional attire. They were quite surprised. I modified my presentation for the kids. I removed all the serious things and included fun things. But the more I tried not to talk about serious issues, the more they keep asking questions about serious issues. (One kid asked me why my country was not happy when we were a part of Pakistan.) Their questions surprised me very much.

PROJECT 4: I had the opportunity to give a presentation to the elementary school kids in the YAS club at church. I was again surprised, because they had so many questions. One questioned about sports, another questioned about festivals, some questioned about clothes and seasons. I was totally confused about how to give them a good presentation, but at last the pastor helped me to organize the contents and all of them were happy to get to know something about Bangladesh.

PROJECT 5: This whole week was so busy with school presentations! I gave presentations in school clubs and classes 34 times. I engaged with many new people. Thanks to my principal, guidance counselor, and teachers for sparing me so much of their time. Some of my teachers liked my presentations so much that they invited me to four or five classes and I gave presentations during the whole periods. I had a variety of topics every time, I changed my slides a little bit after every presentation so that the audience didn't feel bored, and I gave a prize for a quiz after every presentation. I gave chocolates and T-shirts (printed in my screen printing class with a map of Bangladesh). On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I wore my traditional attire and got many compliments. People asked to take pictures with me. It felt great. Students now know me; history teachers started to make notes about Bangladesh; they can pronounce the name of my country correctly; and they know some of the culture.

PROJECT 6: I participated in the Indianapolis Cultural Festival. I did nine hours of volunteering and represented PAX and my country at the festival. There were about 2,000 people in the festival. I did 12 short presentations to small groups. It was a great day. Some of my friends and I, along with the help of PAX Regional Development Manager Alaine Fritzinger, set up a wheel of language. We wrote "Peace" in 15 different languages. The visitors would spin the wheel and it would select a language randomly. If they could tell which language it was, they would get a candy. It was fun. I taught some kids a few words of the Bangla language. And the best thing is I came to know from the UNICEF booth that PAX is a Latin word which means peace. I am really happy about that.

PROJECT 7: Toastmasters Club. I attend Toastmasters meetings regularly. It’s a kind of speech club. I mailed our director and told him that I wanted to give a presentation called “The World's Sweetest Language Bangla,” and he instantly agreed. After the speech, they gave me good compliments and told that they appreciated my work very much.

International Education Week is over but my exchange year isn't. Sharing my culture is something I’m very passionate about. After hearing about my presentations, two of the elementary school principals, a regional scout director, and representatives from both Lions and Rotary Clubs contacted me to see if I would be interested in giving presentations at their events. I was really happy to hear this.

Overall, I want to say just one thing: YES is IEW and thank you, PAX.

—Sifatul (YES, Bangladesh), hosted by the McCormick family (IN)