Fourth- and fifth-grade students at St. Mary School in Delaware listened intently to presentations about faraway cultures from Ohio Wesleyan University’s International Student Ambassadors on October 14.
Eddy HongKai Zhao ’14 of China, Ahlam Awad ’11 and Meheret Tafesse ’14 of Ethiopia, Iqbal Khan ’13 of Pakistan, and Emmy Chien ’14 of Thailand presented PowerPoint displays that included colorful images portraying the cultures of their countries. The International Student Ambassador program enables OWU international students to provide outreach education to area children and youth.
As the OWU ambassadors progressed through their presentations, each became more impassioned about his or her country and obviously enjoyed answering questions from the curious elementary school pupils.
“Today was one of the most exciting days in my life,” said Meheret Tafesse of Ethiopia, who is planning to major in computer science. “To talk about my country for those students made me feel something great. I didn’t think I would feel this great, to be honest.” She is a first-year student and had never been away from her family for more than 12 hours prior to coming to Ohio Wesleyan.
“It is natural that I feel homesick,” Tafesse said. “But this program, talking about my country for the American kids took away that feeling and replaced it with joy. … The kids were paying attention to what we had to say and asking questions … participating in the conversation. Everything they did made me feel happier than ever. … I can’t wait for the next part of the program.”
Eddy HongKai Zhao, another first-year student, also enjoyed the experience. “The kids were cute, eager to learn, and asked weird questions sometimes. I understand. I remember how I used to try my best to ask the weirdest question to my Australian teacher.” Zhao plans to major in chemistry.
Senior Ahlam Awad of Ethiopia said: “It made me feel good to hear some of the kids sitting in the front at the end of my presentation say, ‘Oh, I want to go to Ethiopia now!’ Ethiopia, like many other African countries, has a very rich culture and history, so letting people know about them is just a great pleasure.” Awad is a biology and pre-med major and plans to work in public health, focusing on maternal and child health.
Some of the most animated reactions from the St. Mary School children came when Emmy Chien showed photos of insects that are commonly eaten in Thailand. “Eeeewww!” exclaimed many of the children. (And Chien admitted that she hasn’t been tempted to taste the insects, either.)
“It is the first time I made a presentation to young children,” she says. “I really enjoyed the experience because I am honored to have the opportunity to talk about my culture to them.” A first-year student, Chien plans to major in pre-medicine and neuroscience.
The OWU International Ambassador Program is coordinated by Hung Huynh ’13 of Vietnam, in coordination with the Office of International and Off-Campus Programs.