by JANE KROL
The Global Nomads Group (GNG), serves as an educational program working to strengthen relationships between America and the Arab world. Despite the geographical distance of more than 6,000 miles across the globe, innovative technology has allowed for high schoolers to physically connect via online conversations and video conferencing with other young people whom they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to learn about. Fortunately, being a member of Oceanside’s Feminist Culture Club (FCC), my peers and I had the pleasure to experience the process of communicating on a large scale, to girls just like us, with nothing but an ocean that stood between us.
Prior to the video conferencing, comes the preparation. GNG is set apart from other programs in that the connection is actually a learning/developing process for both participants. In fact, there are three precedents set forth in order to achieve something out of the interaction. First, that the class gains background knowledge on the partnering country. Second, acknowledging information that is already known by submitting material online to the connect.gng webpage with the partnering country. Third, understand the work done within the preparation system. In other words, learn, act, and reflect.
Given that Oceanside High School was paired with the Orbit School of Saudi Arabia, my peers and I were excited to learn of a culture that is somewhat foreign to us. To begin, it was decided out of respect for Saudi Arabian culture and as per their request, to meet with girls only. As instructed by the GNG modules, collectively as a group, we created a community lens to present our town as did the Orbit school to exhibit theirs. However, prior to sharing this representation of our school lives, we individually introduced ourselves online. This way, when we did meet through the video conference, we were aware of our likes/dislikes/leisure activities/etc. Did you know that popular American social media programs such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and even Tumblr are just as well-known and widely used in Saudi Arabia?
From the first five minutes of the conference, it was obvious the Orbit and Oceanside girls has already gained a personal connection. Laughter erupted as we all simultaneously began taking out our phones to take pictures of one another to capture the moment. After some chatter and photo-opping, the discussion began. Something I noted was that the girls spoke English so well that an interpreter was not needed. English is not their first language, and so it makes me wonder how Western culture has spread/diffused far and wide, yet Arab culture has not.
The questions we asked each other varied greatly. Whether they were curiosities regarding the process of elections and governmental operations in each country or simply just asking about the upcoming holidays, each girl seemed invested in the conversation and intrigued to have their questions answered. The interactions seemed so fluid and natural, perhaps because we had created some of the questions beforehand. Nonetheless, I can say that this cultural exchange of ideas should be experienced by everyone in Oceanside. One response I found particularly intriguing was when I asked if any of the girls had visited America. The majority of them said they have been. When the question was redirected back to us, none of us could respond with ‘yes’. This may be an indication that America has successfully attracted so many people to experience the Western culture. However, this also makes me question why we haven’t explored the Arab world in return.
The clarity I gained from meeting the Orbit girls made me come to the conclusion that we really are not that different after all. While we may live in different regions of the world and under distinct institutions, we are all listeners and contributors to society and the future ambassadors of our generation.