During the worldwide Nov. 15-19 observance of International Education Week, exchange students at West Valley High School shared and celebrated the benefits of international education with their classmates and teachers.

Senior Sardar Atayev from Kazakhstan and junior Anna Luhinina from Ukraine joined me in offering presentations to the school about the cultures and traditions of our countries.

“During my first couple of weeks in the States, I understood that most Americans do not know about Kazakhstan,” Atayev said. “As an ambassador and representative of my country, it was my job to show Americans what Kazakhstan is really all about. The International Education Week was a great opportunity to accomplish such a goal.”

Atayev’s classroom presentation covered topics about country’s cities, people, food, landscapes, culture and a bit of history.

“I can say that most students were surprised to see the mesmerizing landscapes and fascinating skylines of our cities and historical sights as most of them thought of Kazakhstan as a stereotypical Middle East country with endless deserts,” Atayev said. “Some were also amazed by the variety of our cuisine.”

Atayev said he had incredible feelings after each presentation, noting that students were attentive and asked many questions. He also felt it was rewarding to know that, thanks to his efforts, dozens of Americans now have a clearer understanding about Kazakhstan, its culture, history, traditions and beauty. He hopes this number will grow even more.

“With that in mind, I do not wish to stop here, and I am already working on conducting more presentations in nursing homes, other high school and middle schools, and several nonprofit organizations in Yakima,” he said.

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