What was surprising during your visit? “Families wake up earlier here.” “I was surprised by the creativity of the food. I saw fried pickles! I was confused at first!” “American kids read and not just play sports.” “I learned that American kids are sometimes serious.”
What was difficult during your visit? “Speaking in English all the time makes me tired.”
The six Israeli Arab students who visited Brookwood from the Ilut Middle School were excited and full of energy when we sat down with them to talk about their experience during the two-week cultural exchange. The three girls and three boys, who range in age from 12 to 15, and their teachers (Kefah Lahwani, Middle School English Teacher, and Nofuz Khateeb, Ilut Middle School History Teacher and Grade Seven Administrator), lived with Brookwood families during their stay, learning about life in American homes as well as sharing aspects of their culture. During the school day the students attended classes with their sixth and eighth grade Brookwood peers and visited classes in the Lower and Middle Schools. In our interview, the overall message from the enthusiastic, engaging students was excitement – about Brookwood, making new friends, their host families, sharing their culture, and so much more.
Here are the six Ilut students and a few of their thoughts about America, Americans, and their adventure becoming a part of the Brookwood community.
Dana “was excited to see the school, meet new teachers, see a new life and make new friends.” Most surprising to Dana was, “People are so kind here. My host family is so kind!”
Adan was “looking forward to meeting new friends, [and] learning in classes here. Brookwood has classes we don’t have like art and music … I like it.” Adan added that she hoped to share “some traditions of our country. For example, extended family – aunts and uncles – live close together. Strong relationships.”
Before her arrival, Lama was looking forward to, “ Meeting my host family and eating American food.” To her, the biggest surprise was, “Brookwood School is so amazing.”
Hosam was also excited that he was able to share parts of his culture. “I taught some Arabic and Hebrew, and about how we learn at our school.” Like all the students, he added that one of the biggest challenges during the two weeks was that, “I miss my family.”
Mohammed, a very thoughtful 15-year-old, said he was looking forward to “sharing who we really are,” and noted that he found that there were many similarities between Ilut Middle School and Brookwood: “Teachers are kind and are like family. Kindness and connection are very important to help students learn,” he said.
Also 15, Ameen said he had been looking forward to, “seeing how other people live and how school is here.” He thought the after-school sports were tough until he switched to running, which he liked. “We have soccer and basketball all seasons,” at Ilut, he said.