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Mercer International Students Educate Alexander II Students On Their Cultures

September 25, 2008

Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

By Sarah Tarr
Mercer Student Newswriter

MACON — Twenty-one of Mercer’s international students, representing 13 countries, volunteered to talk about their cultures with young students at Alexander II Magnet Elementary School on Sept. 25.  The student’s presentations were a part of Alexander II’s International Day celebration called “Oh, the Places You Go.”

Mercer students talked about their native languages, flags, clothing and traditions.  “The kids were very responsive,” said Thao Nguyen, a biology major and international student from Vietnam. 

Nguyen played a game with the children.  “They tried to read sentences in Vietnamese and I corrected their pronunciation. I had a lot of fun.”

The international visits came about because Julie Strecker, coordinator for international student and scholar services, became involved at Alexander II as a parent and approached Linda A. Biven, Alexander II’s principal, one day in the hallway and mentioned that she was teaching a class of international students.  “I was wondering if she would like to have my students visit the school and talk to the kids about their culture,” Strecker said.

Strecker’s goal for bringing international students and elementary students together was to change perspectives – both for the children and Mercer’s international students.  “I wanted to give our international students a lesson in American culture that went beyond the campus or the shopping center,” Strecker said.  “It is important that they have other experiences as well so that their view of Americans can be formed from multiple perspectives.”

Participating in Alexander II’s International Day made an impact on Mercer’s students. Many of them were amazed at the children’s responsiveness to their presentations.  “The kids actively participated and raised a lot of interesting questions. Their enthusiasm is what impressed me most,” said Alice Xu, an English major from China. 

Some of the students felt that the opportunity helped them to relate with and take pride in their own cultures.  “Preparing this presentation was a good opportunity for me to better understand my own culture,” said Jade Oh, a business administration major from South Korea.

Ahmed Slais, a computer science major from Saudi Arabia, echoed Oh’s sentiments.  “It was a great experience for me to represent my country and share my traditional culture with people who have an extremely different culture than us,” he said.

Strecker’s said that the elementary students also benefited by learning about people from other cultures.  “Not many children get to travel abroad and meet people from other countries.  I feel that it was an incredible lesson for the kids,” Strecker said.

The teachers and administration at Alexander II realized the importance of educating their students in other cultures as well.  “These presentations give the kids an opportunity to learn about different areas of the world … they contribute to the process of making the kids diverse citizens,” said Erin Bundrige, a third grade teacher at the school.

“This program not only educated our students, it also meets certain teaching standards – particularly in social studies – that all students must achieve,” said Lynda Singleton, the guidance counselor and coordinator for the event.

In addition to the presentations, parents of Alexander II students from seven other countries set up tables with information on their countries in the gym to introduce students to their cultures.  “This helps our international students to be proud of their countries as well,” Singleton said.

Strecker is very pleased with how the program evolved.  “I think the day was a huge success, and I hope that we can make this an annual event, even after my daughter moves on to middle school,” she said.