Fifteen international students from Winona State University spent a part of their Saturday telling stories from home, hoping to spread a message of peace and acceptance to the Winona community.
The students, presenting as part of an undergraduate class, have backgrounds as varied as their academic pursuits, from engineering to economics, Japan to Saudi Arabia. But their message, delivered on the second floor of Inside the Vault in downtown Winona, was uniform: equality for all, regardless of religion, skin color, and other defining factors.
It was the eighth year professor Judi Becker has asked her students to present, but the first time she’s held the event off campus. “It’s more proactive,” she said. “It gets us out there in the community.”
During the presentations, Becker acted more like a proud parent than a teacher, high-fiving the grinning students as they sat back in their seats after speaking about their backgrounds and current issues in their countries.
WSU student Bassem Al Mutairi shared his story of losing his uncle, a police officer in Saudi Arabia, in a terrorist attack. He also told the story of his first meal in America, where a woman confronted he and a friend about why they were in Winona and yelled at them, telling them to leave the country.
Despite experiencing discrimination and hardship, he said he still holds optimism for his country, his religion and people worldwide.
Ciou Ming-Si of Taiwan and his classmates talked about the threat of water pollution, both globally and within their native countries. Ming-Si, who is studying computer science at WSU, said he’s had little trouble adapting to Winona.
“Here is better than our place,” Ming-Si said with a laugh. “Here is much quieter, and I like it that way.”