When I was in high school, I spent a year in Japan as an AFS exchange student. AFS is an international student exchange organization with chapters in over 60 countries that was started by the American Field Service ambulance corps of World War I to perpetuate international friendships. Other well-known high school exchange programs are Youth for Understanding and Rotary. To say that this experience was eye-opening and life-changing is an understatement. For one year, I lived with a Japanese family and attended a Japanese high school. When I first arrived there, I knew very little about Japan and only spoke about three words of Japanese; the culture shock was real. But I persevered, I made friends, and I ended up having a wonderful year that has had a lasting impact on my life.
The mission of AFS is to provide “intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.”
This fits right in with Global Diversity Awareness Month. According to National Today , October is Global Diversity Awareness Month, a time to “pay tribute to the diverse minds and beliefs held by all cultures around the world.” It further states that “embracing the values of various cultures only strengthens our understanding and appreciation of the world.”
The library is a great place to develop a knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the world. Now is the perfect time to do some “armchair traveling” by picking up a book or DVD about another country or a novel set in another country. Attempt another language, or maybe you even want to eat your way to global understanding! The library has lots of cookbooks to help you explore the cuisine of other countries.
The Youth Department has also set up a Global Diversity display with books and cookbooks that are from or take place in other countries. Here’s a small sample of what you might find:
Along the Tapajós by Fernando Vilela
My Arabic Words Book by Siddiqa Juma
One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi
We’re Sailing Down the Nile: a Journey Through Egypt by Laurie Krebs
Eat with Your Hands: Sushi for Kids by Hideo Dekura
With everything happening in the world today, it may not be possible to travel overseas or live in another country, but you can still learn about other places, other cultures, and other people simply by visiting the library!