Fostering global awareness among both Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) participants and community members is one of the main goals of the NWCCI program. Below Kim Kraft, the NWCCI advisor at Edmonds Community College, writes about a recent presentation three students gave for the Friends of the Edmonds Library. She observes that presentations like this give community groups the chance to learn more about the places our students come from and provide students with opportunities to learn more about community organizations in the United States.
Edmonds NWCCI students Nabila Ghias from Pakistan, Claudia Du Plessis from South Africa, and Rosemond Djan from Ghana recently visited the Friends of the Edmonds Library meeting to give a cultural presentation and the feedback from the audience was overwhelmingly positive. The Friends of the Library is a not-for-profit organization whose goals are to promote and enhance the public library. The Edmonds group has about 180 members; they meet on the fourth Thursday of every month to for a coffee get-together, followed by a business meeting, and a presentation from a guest speaker.
The theme for the students’ presentation was “the international student experience” and the format of the presentation was a moderated panel. This theme and format can work well for most audiences and is less intimidating than a formal lecture-style presentation for the students. I sent the following discussion questions to the students in advance so that they had plenty of time to prepare: Why did you want to come to the United States? Did your friends and family understand your desire to go abroad? How do they view the United States? What did you expect to find here in the United States and how did you expect to be perceived by the people among whom you are now living? What is the library system like in your country?
As I posed each question, the students took turns answering at the microphone. One thing that I noticed was that, although the students had thought about their answers ahead of time, they did not appear scripted or unnatural. The audience could tell that their answers were heartfelt and truthful. All three presenters appeared comfortable talking about their experiences in the United States and sharing their own cultures.
After they had answered the moderated questions, the students took questions from the audience. I was impressed with the students’ ease at answering these questions. For example, when someone asked Claudia how she felt about the recent loss of Nelson Mendela, she answered that she had anticipated this question and went on to eloquently share what Mendela’s legacy meant to her and how his work had impacted her life directly in terms of access to education. Another audience member asked what the students planned to do when they returned to their home countries, all three students shared their individual plans for applying the skills they had learned in the United States to their future professions. When asked if they had been homesick, the students credited the support of fellow NWCCI students to ease any homesickness they may have encountered (this answer brought a couple audience members to tears).
The panel presentation lasted approximately thirty minutes and many audience members commented that they would have loved to listen to the students speak longer but they needed to continue with their regularly scheduled meeting. A week after the presentation, I received an email from Friends of the Library Speaker Chair, Sharron Cramer, stating “I have been in charge of obtaining speakers for the FEL programs for three years now and I have had the most positive feedback EVER for your students. Every one of us were so impressed and felt so inspired by each young woman”. I was also approached by Sno-Isle Libraries Volunteer Program Administrator, Nancy Patton, about the possibility of NWCCI students presenting to other volunteer groups in the library system.
Overall, this presentation exceeded expectations and lived up to the goals of cultural exchange in more ways than one. On the one hand, the members of the Friends of the Edmonds Library learned more about Pakistan, Ghana, and South Africa. They also learned more about the experiences of international student in the United States. On the other hand, Claudia, Rosemond, and Nabila learned about volunteer organizations in the U.S. and, as the students themselves pointed out, they learned a little more about themselves as public speakers and as representatives the NWCCI program and of their home countries.