- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

Local high school students gained new perspectives about foreign countries last week from a group of graduate students studying throughout the United States as part of the Fulbright Program.

More than 140 Fulbright scholars from 75 countries on Friday visited McKinley Technology High School in Northeast, T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda and six other high schools to tell students about their countries and cultures.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Inside two classrooms at McKinley, 120 ninth- and 10th-graders listened for an hour as students from Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Rwanda and other countries shared their stories, then answered questions about the program, their music, their religion and living conditions in their native countries.

“I enjoyed [the experience] very much because I love interacting with students,” said Andrew Ong, a native of Malaysia who is pursuing a doctorate degree in economics at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “I wanted them to know that the people of Malaysia are friendly and we care about other countries and cultures.”

Mr. Ong, 37, engaged the students with glimpses of his family life, his love of music and common greetings in his country.

“Because I am a Christian, I listen to a lot of Christian music. I listen to all music, and would you believe rap?” he said as the students erupted in laughter.

Wilson Muyenzi, 27, from Rwanda, said the students’ questions were insightful, including one about how the people of Rwanda view the United States.

“I gave them an honest answer, which is that [the people think] the American government does not care about what happens in Africa,” he said. “In 1994, during the genocide, there was no intervention by the international community or the United States, the leading world power.”

However, the people were happy that former President Bill Clinton visited Rwanda and said the United States could have done more, said Mr. Muyenzi, who is pursuing a master’s in computer science at Cornell University.

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