When Nashr El Auliya '20 arrived at Brooks School from Jakarta, Indonesia, he admits he was out of his element.
The International Club student leader shared his personal story in Chapel on October 24, introducing the school's annual ceremony recognizing United Nations Day. The event featured a procession of flags, carried by students celebrating the country that represents them, while Associate Director of Admission Alex Skinner '08 read aloud a fun-fact about the nation and played music from each region.
"Being able to study abroad was the dream. . . .There was no way for me to know what to expect when I actually ended up going here," El Auliya told the students, faculty and staff gathered that morning.
"I was thrust into a completely new environment," the student added. "At first, I didn't know who to trust, where to look for help, and I thought that it was always going to be this way. I couldn't have been more wrong. I saw my identity as an international student ... But who said that I had to stay the same? Who said that the people around me had to be the same as me? The gathering of cultures here at Brooks, and the people around us right now, changed me. It expanded and enriched who I am."
Inviting everyone to "allow this diverse, vibrant congregation of cultures around you to do the same thing to you all," El Auliya kicked off the annual event at Brooks — which has enrolled students from 23 countries (and 31 states) during the past five years.
"I thought that Nash's speech made a very personal connection to the experience," said Abbey Charlamb '21, who also enjoyed simply seeing all the flags assembled in Chapel and waving in the breeze outdoors afterward. "Maybe I'll participate next year!"
Caroline Arriz '21 was grateful for the opportunity to get to know her classmates a bit better. "If you didn't know where someone was from, now you know," she said. "And it's cool to see the different backgrounds of people, the diversity on campus."
Omolade Mebude '21, for his part, appreciated the pageantry of the festivities. "I think it was just really cool and it made cultural significance for each person feel special to me," he said. "I also really like how they added the song this year and the individuality that it brought to each person carrying their flag. I just thought it was an interesting thing to watch and be there for."
For Skinner — who introduced each country featured in the procession — the tradition has come full circle. He carried the Japanese flag for a similar ceremony on campus 15 years ago!
"As I reflect on my own experience as a day student from Haverhill, Mass., I recall many lifelong friendships I developed with students all over the world," Skinner said addressing Chapel-goers from the podium. "The opportunity I had at Brooks to learn of the journeys that others took to this small school in North Andover was, and is, the most meaningful experience I've had in my life."
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