By Derek GeanAugust 28, 2009
By Derek Gean
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Fort Leonard Wood got a taste of the world, Monday, as international military students shared their countries and cultures with the community during the Ninth Annual Know Your World Reception, sponsored by the International Student Office.
The colorful flags of more than 37 nations embellished Nutter Field House, while the aromas of exotic spices and flavors drifted through the air. Students representing dozens of nations manned booths presenting facts and photos of their home countries. Many of the students offered a taste of their country with food and beverages, such as coffee from Columbia and curry from India.
Charlie Rogers, International Student Office chief, said the annual event helps dispel many of the myths Americans often have about other countries, and helps promote the ISO sponsorship program.
"Some of these guys are here in the United States for the first time; they are away from their homes and families," Rogers said.
He said through the program, organizers hope to pique community members' interests in learning about other nations and in sharing U.S. culture with the students.
"We try to give each student a family sponsor - someone to be a friend with while they are here," Rogers said. "Many of these guys come to the United States, and they are looking for skyscrapers and big buildings and stuff, then they
come to Fort Leonard Wood and see the Midwest - it is not what they are expecting."
Rogers said he hopes the program helps provide the students with Americans who will give them a true taste of the U.S.
Capt. Islam Attallah, an Egyptian student, said when he first arrived in the U. S,. he was really surprised.
"The system here is very different," Attallah said. He said he was amazed at how in the U.S. there is no class difference between people.
"Everybody works to get their ranks and promotions," Attallah said. He said through the Egyptian students' presentation, he hoped to promote the fact there is more to Egypt than pyramids and camels. He said the country is trying to build on modern principals.
First Lt. Robert Ostir, of the Slovenian Army, prepared videos about Slovenia for the reception.
"Most Americans don't know where Slovenia is; they think it is somewhere in Russia, or get it confused with Slovakia - two totally different countries" Ostir said. "Slovenia is in the heart of Europe and was a part of the former Yugoslavia," he said.
Rogers said education is the key to dispelling rumors and creating friendships.
"I really wish the community would take an interest in these guys," Rogers said. "One friendship could be everlasting. We have right now 40 different countries and 79 international soldiers. Where else can you have all this at your finger tips and get to know more about these other countries," he said.
Rogers said cultural education is important for everyone, but especially for the younger generation, because that is the most impressive generation.
"Those guys need to know more about these guys other than what they see on CNN and on television. Now is the time for this younger generation to say, 'let me go talk to this guy; maybe it is not as bad as what the newspaper or the media is saying,'" Rogers said.
For more information about the International Student Program, or sponsoring a student, call 573.563.8015.
(Editor's note: Derek Gean writes for the Fort Leonard Wood GUIDON and is the community section editor.)