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March 1, 2018

International students present on their homelands

Six international honors students will each bring a sample of their culture and a glimpse of their homeland to the CoLab this spring when they are showcased in the Honors Program-sponsored Discover the World series. Discover the World gives students an hour to present the history, politics, language, religion, art and cultural history of their country of origin without any sugarcoating.

“It’s important to highlight their lifestyles and experiences instead of what others might perceive,” said Maria Martinez, who is a student in the Honors Program and series organizer. “I think educating ourselves about other countries is even more relevant this year because of the delicate political climate, but it’s important all the time to keep people informed and bring cultural awareness to JCCC.”

Even though Discover the World is in its infancy, it usually draws at least 30 people to the CoLab for each presentation, and there’s always room for more. It is the brainchild of Hanna Boukhaima, a 2017 student from Morocco, and Anna Page, Honors Program Director. While traveling to the Honors Connection Conference in Emporia, Kansas, the two struck up a conversation about how international students open up when talking about their native lands.

“We came up with the idea at the same time to start a series because international students bring so much depth and variety to the Honors Program,” said Page. “It only made sense to give them a platform to reveal the world to the campus population and the community.”

Tell all about it

It’s been a hit with international students because they are proud of their heritage and want to share family stories and history.

“It’s not typical to have students asking to get up in front of people and speak for almost an hour,” Page said. “They turn into rock stars when they get to share their heritage.”

There is a vetting process before an honors student is chosen to present. Martinez sends a survey to Honors Program students. If they choose to return answers, she sets up an interview to confirm they are credible and willing to commit to an unbiased PowerPoint presentation that meets outlined criteria.

Other colleges are inquiring and want to build a program from the blueprint JCCC’s Honors Program has designed. Discover the World also supports the College’s co-curricular outcomes assessment for the Higher Learning Commission.

Melvin’s story

Melvin Santoso, liberal arts student, spent hours preparing his presentation about his home country, Indonesia. He was well organized and meticulously timed 120 slides to coincide with his hourlong talk. He acknowledged that putting together the presentation helped him become even more aware of Indonesian regions and cultural ideologies that fascinated him.

“I did a lot of research, and it was fun to learn about traditions I’d never heard about,” he said. “I explored the east side of Indonesia and found pictures of places I’d never seen before.”

Because of his expertly delivered lecture, Page is ready to pack her bags and spend her next vacation in Indonesia. “It was never on my list as one of the places I’d like to go,” she said. “But, I’m ready (to go) because his slideshow was gorgeous.”

Santoso chose to give a Discover the World presentation to fulfill part of the Honors Program requirements. He admits he was a little intimidated to speak for an hour in front of an audience but knew he could fill the time. “The more I talked, the easier it got,” he said. “I realized I was actually teaching people about other cultures … and who wouldn’t want to learn about other places in the world?”

A place to call home (away from home)

The Honors Program gave Santoso more than just challenging classes; it gave him a home base – a safe place to meet new friends from all over the world. Many domestic students can’t afford to study abroad, but Discover the World acts as a friendship starter to introduce them to international students. 

“So many of my new friends are such good people,” he said. “I really like finding out about their dreams and aspirations.”

Great value

Discover the World is yet another way to express to our student immigrants that we value their cultural diversity, said Page. “Our campus would be very different without the intellectual achievements and culture they bring. Showcasing them helps them understand how they are an integral part of the community aspect of this college.”

Upcoming presentations include Mexico, Puerto Rico, Iran, Vietnam and Haiti.

To find out if the Honors Program is right for you, contact Page at 913-469-8500, ext. 2512, or stop by COM 201.