Bethesda Magazine | July-August 2017

Traveling the World in One Place By Sophia Azimi

High School Essay Honorable Mention Winner, Washington International School

My school is like an airport. Upon arrival, each student brings a suitcase filled with their unique cultural background to share with others. A Russian girl with her Matryoshka nesting dolls, a Moroccan boy with his Gad Elmaleh impressions, a Norwegian girl with her Syttende Mai dress. Each child’s distinctiveness ignites curiosity and interest in the spirits of their peers. But sadly, as within the transient ambiance of an airport, departure time arrives for almost everyone. Piloted by their parents’ jobs, most kids end up switching schools and flying to a new country of residency. Tears are shed as they leave our cultural microcosm.

Not everyone leaves though. Some, like me, are left at the airport gate, contemplating the incessant blur of people coming and going.

Attending an international school has taught me an extensive amount about different countries and cultures, and the abundance of diversity has created an atmosphere of open-mindedness for me to mature in. As a primary schooler I ate poffertjes and supported the Dutch national soccer team with my friend Veerle, explored an array of cheeses and lit fireworks on Bastille Day with my French friend Lou, and made dumplings and gratefully accepted a hongbao—a Chinese New Year envelope with candy and money—from my friend Yitao. Veerle, Lou, and Yitao all went their separate ways, but I am thankful for the memories and unique traditions they all shared with me.

Experiencing and learning about such diversity not only emphasizes the importance of preserving it, but also stresses the necessity of confronting racism. Through the mere existence of its ethnically heterogeneous environment, my school already manages to challenge discrimination and hate. We—the students and teachers—are provided with a unique opportunity to interact with others from countries all across the globe. A unique opportunity to appreciate and empathize with cultural differences. A unique opportunity to be inspired with understanding before xenophobic hate can attempt to poison us. It is our gift of understanding that will then help us in our endeavors to lead our world in crossing the menacing canyon of hostility dividing some cultures and races.

At the end of the day, when our airport closes down, I sit in the Hall of Peace of its Arts and Athletics Building, my brain buzzing with thoughts of essays, projects and tasks I must complete. However I soon find a tranquility in contemplating the mini flags of various countries hung across the ceiling. They float above my head in harmonious rows, symbolizing future prospects for idyllic relationships between all nations, regardless of the borders, mountains and oceans that separate them. Maybe one day, I hope to myself, people of all races can be as united as the flags gathered snugly across the rope.