Students share their native cultures at schoolwide celebration

by Lindsay Huth

Education First—an English-language school that caters to foreign students in Takoma, D.C.—celebrated International Student Day on Friday, June 30, giving the students the chance to share their native countries’ culture and traditions with classmates, teachers and visitors.

Teams of students, grouped by native country, took over classrooms in the Laurel Street building, decorating the white walls with maps, flags and photos of their nations. Judges snaked through the halls throughout the day, letting groups give presentations about their home countries using their newly developed English skills.

“It’s an opportunity for students to practice their language skills and invite the community to see what they’ve been doing and the effort they’ve put into learning a new language,” school director Melisa Soto said.

A total of 193 students participated, representing 34 countries.

The French group created a picnic-like spread, complete with cheese, meats, bread and checkered napkins.

The Panamanians explained the differences between the country’s various provinces, and then performed the Tamborito folkloric dance while dressed in handmade, traditional garb.

“It’s incredible to see all of the cultures come together,” said Sophia Bedrossian, a member of the Argentinian group. “Maybe we can’t actually go to everyone’s countries, but they can share them here.”

International Student Day is competition, too, and the top prize went to the German group for their detailed timeline of the changes in Germany’s map; their presentation of famous German people, brands and soccer teams; and their description of Oktoberfest menus and dress.

They received certificates and a pancake party for their efforts.

Judges from the school scored each presentation based on four criteria: linguistic performance and accuracy, effort and dedication, originality and creativity, and punctuality.

The French and Danish groups tied for second place, earning certificates and ice cream sandwiches, and the Mexican and Chinese groups won third, meriting certificates and lollipops.

Soto said the Washington, D.C., school has hosted International Student Days twice annually, in both November and June, since the location opened in 2014.

The school is part of a network of over 40 Education First locations worldwide, where such culture-sharing days are staple events, Soto said.

Teens and young adults can come to Education First’s D.C. location to build or refine their English skills through programs ranging from two weeks to nearly a year in length. Some students focus on intensive classes, while other, more advanced students can also complete internships in the nation’s capital.

Sangmi Park, a Korean student taking a nine-month break from her studies at Seoulwomen’s University, said she was drawn to the program for both personal and professional reasons.

“For my career, if I want to get a job at a global company, it’s important to learn English,” Park said. “Personally, I also wanted to make some foreign friends. So I stopped university to come here, and I’m very satisfied with this life.”

Park was part of the eight-person Korean group at Friday’s International Student Day. The team filled its room with red, white and blue balloons and served dishes like hoddeok, which they described as a Korean pancake, and sikhye, a sweet rice drink.

The group also set up a table to teach visitors their Korean names, which the students then wrote on name tags to give them.

“People were surprised by the letters and how cute they are,” Park said. “It made me very happy and proud of my country.”

Photo by Rebecca Gallery