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A Global Weekend Getaway

Twenty students from around the world enjoyed a relaxing weekend on a FIUTS trip to Frog Creek Lodge.

Guest post by FIUTS Facilitators Minhtu Nguyen, Joslyn Cal and and Jacky Chen

Our adventure started with 1.5 hour car ride from campus. For many participants, this was their first time passing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the fifth-longest twin suspension bridge in the US. The Frog Creek Lodge is a beautiful wooden lodge surrounded by a green grass lawn, forest, and hiking trails. Inside the lodge are a big cozy living rooms with fireplaces, a piano, guitars, rocking chairs, board games, a CD selection from timeless artists, etc., a large and fully equipped kitchen, and well-decorated bedrooms.

We arrived at the lodge right at lunch time. With a team of 20 people, we quickly made a delicious lunch in about 30 minutes including hot dogs, chili, fries, and salad. Even though it was chilly, we still decided to have lunch outside to enjoy the food, the beautiful sunny day, and the breeze. French fries and spicy sweet potato fries took longer to prepare and were perfect to warm us up at the end of an outdoor lunch in late fall.

After lunch, we went for a walk on the trails around the lodge. We occasionally encountered funny little frog statues along the way. Half way through the trail was a labyrinth. Charlie, one of the participants, led the whole group through the labyrinth and accompanied us with music from his guitar. It was such a nice and relaxing time for the group to escape the city life with school stress and feel the fresh air and quietness of the forests.

Back to the lodge, some of us spent time gathering around the fireplace while some were playing sports games. Ultimate frisbee was a good bonding time for the group. The lawn was quite slippery from the rain the day before but it didn’t prevent our two teams from playing hard. We ran, fell, laughed, supported each other, and had so much fun.

Following the sweating time with sports games, we gathered in the living room to play board games. It was very interesting to try different versions of UNO or different card games from different countries.

After fun and games in the afternoon, it’s time for dinner! Volunteers broke into two different stations, a pizza station and a spaghetti station. Within a house of vegetarians, a vegan and meat lovers combined, there were a lot of options to prepare. An upbeat group of 10 or so people in a hot, somewhat crowded, kitchen produced a Canadian bacon and pineapple, pepperoni, veggie and two cheese pizzas as well as veggie and meat spaghetti sauces and salad…delicious!

A clean up crew was swift and efficient in order to move on to our evening activities of chilling out, listening to music, a campfire, s’mores and enjoying Jacuzzi time. Under the (nearly) full moon, a campfire by the Jacuzzi was the perfect spot for making s’mores and passing around the popcorn bowl while chatting. It was some of the participants’ first time making s’mores. We all enjoyed them, even with our sticky marshmallow covered fingers and faces.

People spread out throughout the night, rotating between different groups and activities. Inside, a small group was playing quite an intense game of “Risk”, while a few of us played card games and chatted. Some remained in the Jacuzzi and others participated in sharing music, singing and talking around the fire-pit. Games and conversations inside the house lasted all through the night, some until early in the morning. A few of us night owls may or may not have been up until 3am… some of us may or may not have been up until 5am…but either way, it was a great day and night (and morning) of talking, laughing and lounging. The restful night’s sleep, which some of us may or may not have gotten, was complemented by early risers ready to prepare a spectacular breakfast on a beautiful sunny, Sunday morning.

The breakfast was awesome! We prepared a typical American style breakfast with pancakes, eggs, sausages, oatmeal, juice, milk and fruit. Similarly to what we had done for other meals, we divided into several groups to cook different dishes. Everything went on very well; we enjoyed the time of cooking and talking to new friends together.

More people woke up and joined the team of cooking, and some helped clean up afterward. Big thanks to everyone for their great help!

After the breakfast we wrapped up everything and prepared our own sandwiches for lunch. We said goodbye to the lovely lodge and the friendly owner, Mike, and then headed to the Penrose State Park near by. The view was nice as the sun came out, peaceful and warm.

Crescent Lake Park was our next visit. We did a short hike through the forest next to the lake. The air in the forest was cool and fresh. Exploring the unknown area with a group of new friends is a great experience for everyone of us. Then we headed to downtown Gig Harbor and had our picnic lunch at a small park. It is a small lovely town, with many beautiful houses and interesting shops.

As the sunset came, we headed back to campus, ending our fantastic weekend getaway to Frog Creek Lodge with new friendships and good memories.


******Photo credits: Sascha Krause, Yili Chen, and Minhtu Nguyen.

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Youth Leadership Alumni in Action

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Nov 20, 2014 10:59 AM |
Alumni in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina collaborated on a successful project to help their community.
Youth Leadership Alumni in Action

The Bosnia YLP Spring 2014 group

Guest post by FIUTS Youth Leadership Program alumnus Mateo Cocvic

On October 17th, alumni of the FIUTS Youth Leadership Program Spring 2014 organised a charity event in partnership with the organization Minores under the name ''Teenagers in Action.'' The purpose of the event was to collect food, medicines, and winter clothes for socially vulnerable families in city of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The reason why alumni decided to do the project is the fact that Mostar is counting more and more families that are not able to provide essentials for themselves. Families are not given any help by the government, the only help the get is from events like these.

See an article (in Bosnian!) and more photos from the service project here.

In the project three schools were participating: high school ''Gimnazija fra Grge Martića,'' high school "Jurja Dalmatinca'' and ''high school Faust Vrančić." The schools decided to give space for donations. During the event students of these school brought food, special essentials for babies, and winter clothes. After donations were received they were sorted and transferred directly to families. Not only students participated, but also many other people who wanted to give house essentials such as are carpets, pans, blankets etc.

The news about the event quickly spread and we had a postman bringing a package of food and hygienic basics in the name of the local post office. The next week hearing about the project local kindergartens and other school donated the food to organisation. The outcome was astonishing: all 15 families that Minores had in their data base were given food for next three months.

Photo from another Bosnian news article about the successful project!

We are overwhelmed with the number of people who helped us in this way or another. The teachers who spread the word, and young people who came to volunteer. And also the media. We (Mateo and teacher Danijela) gave interview for news paper ''Dnevni List,'' Doria did the local Tv ''RTM' and Mateo gave a radio interview and three for internet portals!

Great work, everyone!


The Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program here.

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Facilitator Corner: Joey Liao

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Nov 17, 2014 02:00 PM |
Read about the experiences of one of our amazing volunteer student leaders!
Facilitator Corner: Joey Liao

Joey (second from right) at Mt. Rainier with FIUTS friends

FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over the world who welcome new international visitors, help to organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Joey!

Name: Joey Liao (Yunyi)
Country: China
Major: Communication
Class: Junior
FIUTS Facilitator Since: 2014

Brief Introduction

Joey Liao currently lives in Seattle in pursuit of her Bachelor degree at the University of Washington with a major in Communication and minor in Education, Learning & Society. Originally born and raised in a small town in China, Joey has traveled to many places which have given her the chance to see and connect worldwide. She seeks truth, social justice and community, hoping one day she will work for an NGO helping shed light on more serious issues in the world.

What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?

I couldn't find a better way to connect and give back to this community other than being a FIUTS facilitator. With the privilege to take on this leadership role, having access to many more resources, facilitators are fully encouraged to bridge further and deeper connections among individuals, helping them find a way to navigate through the seemingly daunting new lifestyle in a different culture.

As the word says, facilitators lead in a way to facilitate, which gives them the maximum chance to adjust and cooperate with peers to make the best experience out of it. It’s a great role for them to connect, share and learn from others.

FIUTS facilitators on the Fall Orientation Boat Cruise (Joey is sitting on the left in the front)

Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator

In the summer I facilitated FIUTS camp which has been recognized as one of the all time most popular events during orientation in FIUTS history. It’s a weekend long trip to a summer camp where students new to the Seattle area engage in a series of challenges and activities designed to break the ice and boundaries among them so to better connect with each other.

Apart from the crazy intense passion everyone showed during the "Campetition," it’s amazing to see how everyone’s coming with a welcoming attitude, open to meeting new people and  making effort to get involved to know each other better. On the last day of Camp we spent the entire time doing cultural skits in which all students coming from over 30 different countries would come up with different forms of skits representing their culture or country. I had most fun watching them performing the unique creative pieces telling their stories.(Still amazed by the Japanese dancing skit I recorded on my phone!)

FIUTS Mini World Cup at Fall Orientation 2014

Tips/comments for peer facilitators

Take initiative, be spontaneous connecting with people you don’t know, model that behavior to encourage others to jump outside of their comfort zone as well.

Stay open-minded and culturally sensitive. Be aware that we may come from drastically different cultures and that certain beliefs, behaviors and norms don’t generalize to them all, and be respectful to them. Don’t hesitate or be shy to ask away if you’re genuinely not familiar with their culture.

Have fun! Rain or shine! All about good company and laugh together.


Learn more about the FIUTS Facilitator program here!

More Facilitator Corner posts:

Anya Raj

Minhtu Nguyen

Jianyang (Jane) Zhang

Jialu Sun

Fleur Xuanlin Li

Saleh Alwabel

Clara Jiayao Lu

Le (Juliet) Huang

David Veth

Yili (Jacky) Chen

Jonathan Cheng

Fah Thamsuwan

Charlie Warner

Katherine Li

Nabil Sutjipto

Jeremy Sculley

Ani Antonyan

Jaisang Sun

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BiH Youth Leadership Fall 2014: A whole new world

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Nov 14, 2014 04:20 PM |
The third set of blog posts from participants in the Fall 2014 Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina!

Students and teachers from Bosnia and Herzegovina have wrapped up their time in Seattle and are off to the next part of their adventure! As they got ready to leave Seattle, five Youth Leadership Program participants wrote blog posts reflecting on the most significant aspects of their time here.


Here Come the Waterfalls - by Tijana Cvjetković

My name is Tijana and I'm a sixteen year old YLP participant from Sarajevo. This program started changing my life from its very beginning. I met new people, discovered new things, and most importantly, became a part of an amazing family for these short two and a half weeks.

I remember entering a room full of people I didn't know, people who would host us. I had already talked to my host mom, Sarah, via email, and was super excited to meet them. After they introduced us to our hosts, we had a short presentation and then headed home to spend the weekend with them. I drove home with my host dad and my five year old host brother, where my host mom and baby host sister were waiting for us.

As we drove there I kept thinking about how I'd fit into the family. I had no reason to worry, everything turned out perfect, just as I had imagined it. The kids accepted me like I was a part of their family forever, and my host parents were more than nice.

As the time passed, we became closer. I loved hearing about their day when I came home, playing with my younger siblings, waking up on the weekends and hearing them screaming and laughing... I loved everything about it.

But our time together passed so fast, and before we even knew it, we had had to say goodbye. Our final goodbye was a very sad moment. There  were a lot of tears,  a lot of "I don't want to leave" and "We want you to stay" and hugs. We had to say goodbye without knowing when we'll see each other again. That was the saddest, but the most heartwarming moment in the program.

As I said, this exchange has been a life changing experience from its very beginning, but it was my host family who made it this special. They changed their lives for these couple of weeks to welcome a new family member in their family, a family member who they loved and appreciated. And even though I'm sad about leaving, I'm more than happy that I've met these amazing people and had a chance to share this part of my life with them.

Thank you for everything!

Diversity is the spice of life - by Anđela Vračar

My name is Andjela, a 16 year old student from Bosnia and just few months ago I was a high school student who couldn't even imagine that one day I would pack all my dreams and wishes in a 22-pound suitcase. A trip from dreams to reality. Thoughts of family, friends, indescribable happiness and a glimpse of fear were running across my mind. I realize I won't be the same person anymore.

I have only been  in the USA for 2 weeks but I can already feel the influences of culture and reality changing me towards better. In these 22 days that I have been here, I saw and felt what you cannot experience with the tour guides.

Experiences that I will treasure the most were the 2 days of high school, where I felt like a true American teenager. As you step in the hallway your senses are tingling in this unknown territory, but just as you see the smiley faces, your inconvenience disappears. The differences between the schools in America and Bosnia are so vast that they can't fit into one blog post. From choices of classes, students to the classroom decorations, everything is different. But just being in an American school is like being in a parallel universe.

One of the differences is the interaction between the students and their professors. In the America , I saw a friendly communication of teachers with students, while in Bosnia you can notice a certain distance but filled with the respect.

I was also pretty shocked with not just the number of subjects, but also with their variety. For example in America, students must choose 6 subjects and they study just these subjects during the year, while in Bosnia, students are obligated to have 15-17 different subjects. Many of the subjects in American schools, like theater, global leadership and sewing you cannot find in Bosnian schools due to the lack of space and teachers.

I am really thankful to students and teachers who were introducing me to the American education. As a student from a country far away, I would find it hard to adapt to the new system of learning, but when you have the support of other people, differences disappear.

One more thing that will stay with me are the friends I made those 2 days at school. People from another country, different culture and religion, became the same, yet different.


Opening my eyes to a whole new world - by Vanja Barač

Hi everyone my name is Vanja. I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina, I live in the second biggest city in BiH called Banja Luka. Thanks to this amazing Youth Leadership Program I am in beautiful Seattle. One phone call changed my life completely. I have been here for two weeks already and I've experienced a lot of new things. I try to enjoy every moment. The most fun thing was trying new foods and making new friendships. But not everything that we do is fun, we are not here in vacation we are here to learn and experience new things that can help us improve our community and ourselves.

A couple days ago we were at the Ballard Food Bank volunteering for two days. It was a really life changing experience, it made you realize that you have appreciate life that you're living. I was surprised how that place is filled with emotions and happiness. On our first day my friends and I were split into three groups and we were doing different tasks. My group and I were working on
packaging food. I met a lot of homeless people and it really surprised me how happy they are. You can see a honest smile on their faces, they were happy and thankful to us. I talk to a lot of them about their lives and I felt really good because each one of us sometimes needs a person who will listen to our story. We met also a lot of staff members at the bank and they explained to us how their system works so I think that's really good for us because we can apply some things that we learned here in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On our second day we were in front of a supermarket sharing leaflets to people asking them to donate some food for the food bank. It was really exciting and fun. Some of the people were generous and some of them not but that's okay. We raised a lot of food and some money.

A couple days after we were at Marra Farms volunteering where we were weeding vegetables that will be donated to the food bank. I was really surprised by the system that people in USA have, I think it's amazing and I can't wait to suggest my friends to do the same thing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is really important that to people have places like this,it can happen to everyone....people lose their jobs, bankrupt, you never know what's waiting you tomorrow. We all appreciate everything that we learned here and I think that we can and we will MAKE A CHANGE. Always remember never give up because even if we fail what better way is there to live?

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take - by Namik Selimović

My name is Namik Selimovic, I was born in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thanks to FIUTS (Foundation for International Understanding Through Students), me and 17 other young leaders are visiting Seattle. This trip is slowly ending, and I just don’t want it to end.

When I applied for this program, I wanted to push my limits. And it was uncomfortable at beginning but, after a while you get used to people and speaking English 24/7 which is awesome. Suddenly you realize that you are so far from home, family and friends, but also you have 17 of your best friends in here.

When Ellen and Tom came to Sarajevo, we had a presentation about how to be a good team, and what does one team have to have in order to achieve success. I remember the definition of the team: “A Team is an entity in itself." The team is made out of links, and every link matters equally and if one link fails, everything falls apart. Honestly I thought that it’s impossible to make a team in 4 week period, but I was wrong.

When I came here I thought that I would not be able to trust anyone, but I do now. Everything is possible only if you put your mind into it. If you don’t try new things, and if you’re not trying to make some difference in your life, nothing is going to change. Because you don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you, you go and make one, and then try to use it. Because you have to fail, and fail, and fail until you succeed. You have to look deep down, and ask yourself who do you want to be. Pursue your dreams. “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.”

To end this blog, I want to give a big thank note you to FIUTS staff and volunteers, for making this experience the best I’ve ever had so far.


Memories for a Lifetime - by Lejla Zećo

During the last few weeks I learned and experienced more in Seattle than I had expected. We had an amazing time learning important and interesting things. This program is unlike anything I have ever experienced before, it astonished me every time. Not with all the tours and trips around the city, like the Space Needle, the EMP museum, Halloween, the city hall, Bainbridge Island or with the long lasting workshops, that were all great, but more the way all those components have been linked and put together in a way to have a interesting and at the same time meaningful purpose.

Their purpose and goal to teach us how to, not just lead people, what most might believe, but to become aware of all the issues and assets inside our communities on our own and empathize as well as work with the world and its needs. The FIUTS organization has done a great job in finding ways to engage us in the program as much as possible. They have as well shown a great deal of compassion for the purpose of this program and us YLP members as a team. All their effort have made it hard for me to decide which event has inspired me the most, every event made me smarter, more informed, aware and willing to work hard for a better society.

The stay in Seattle was also very interesting since we embraced a new way of life, different cultures, different beliefs, and a better insight of the history of Seattle. In some moments it was challenging to step out of the “comfort zone” and become more flexible and open for new things but I surely do not regret a single moment of it. I had always wished for an opportunity to spend the time experiencing the life in a different country than my own. I made a lot of new friends from my country and met a lot of very nice people from all around the world that talked about their experiences, goal and dreams. I will surely miss Seattle and all the lovely people I have met that were a great inspiration but I will take with me all I have learned from them and try to use that knowledge and inspiration for further life experience.


The Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program here.

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An Introduction to Kuwaiti Culture (by Bader)

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Nov 11, 2014 06:20 PM |
Learn more about the culture of Kuwait from a FIUTS lead facilitator!
An Introduction to Kuwaiti Culture (by Bader)

Bader on a recent hiking trip with FIUTS friends

The following "Guide to Kuwaiti Culture" was written by FIUTS Lead Facilitator Bader Alfarhan to introduce Kuwait to anyone who plans to spend time there, or is just interested in learning more. Feel free to share it with others!

All photos in this post were taken by Bader at Souk Al-Mubarakiya, a market in downtown Kuwait City.

Moving to a new country can be a very exciting and daunting experience all at the same time. While you might feel a bit confused and misunderstood at times, it’s important to know that it is completely normal to feel this way. Over time, you will start to get the hang of things, as you will have more time to learn of the local customs, language, people, and etiquette.


In Kuwait, the way that two people greet each other is determined by their sex, age, and relationship. Kuwaitis exchange pleasantries when they greet each other, and ask about one’s health, work, family, and friends. They often do not wait for a response. You can respond by saying, Bekhair, the Arabic word for “All is good”, Tamam, the Arabic word for “Good”, or Hamdillah, an Arabic word that roughly translates to “Thankful to God”.

Man x Man; Woman x Woman

When two people of the same sex are first introduced, they extend their hands for a handshake, and say Tasharfna, an Arabic word that translates to “Pleased to meet you”, or Alsalam, the Arabic word for “Hello”. Kuwaitis that are well acquainted greet members of their same sex with a kiss on both cheeks, starting with the right cheek. While some Kuwaitis might plant a kiss on the other person’s cheek, others will simply just brush their cheeks against the other person’s cheek and make a kissing sound. Kuwaitis often greet elders by kissing their foreheads.

Man x Woman

When a man and a woman that are related to each other by blood [1] greet each other, they would cheek kiss each other, just as they would with a person from their same sex.

If the man and the woman are not related to each other, then the man waits for the woman to extend her hand for a handshake. Some women extend their hands for men, while others choose not to due to religious reasons. Same goes for men. A good way to tell whether or not the person that you’re about to greet would feel comfortable with a handshake is to pay attention to their body language. Kuwaitis that are reluctant to shake hands with a member of the opposite sex will tend to greet each other verbally from a distance, bow their heads, or will simply have their hands clasped in front of them. Children greet adults of the opposite sex with a kiss on both cheeks.

Do not take it personally if a Kuwaiti refuses to shake hands with you! Kuwaitis might let out a laugh in a lighthearted manner if you make a mistake, but will be happy to correct you, as they’ll be aware that you’re a foreigner.

Titles & Nicknames

Kuwaitis often address their peers and friends by their first name or nickname. It is very common for Kuwaitis to have more than one nickname – one to be used by family members at home, one to be used by coworkers, etc.

Kuwaitis address older-aged family friends and parents of their friends with ‘ami (paternal uncle) or khalti (maternal auntie). In professional work settings, Kuwaitis address men with Istath (mister) and women with Istatha (miss) followed by their first name. It is okay to start calling an older person by their first name if they invite you to do so.

In American school classrooms where English is the main language of instruction, Kuwaiti students address their teachers with Mister or Miss (regardless of whether or not the teacher is married). In classrooms where Arabic is the main language of instruction, Kuwaiti students address their teachers with Istath or Miss. Teachers in Kuwait do not go by their last name.

Social Customs in Kuwait

Just like any other culture in the world, Kuwaitis have their own customs and traditions. Mentioned below are a handful of their customs.

Dress Code

Kuwaitis can be seen wearing either traditional or Western clothing.


The Kuwaiti man’s traditional outfit consists of the dishdasha (robe – usually white), gahfiya (white cap), qitra (head cloth), and ‘agal (black halo). Kuwaiti men can also be seen wearing t-shirts, shirts, jeans, sweatpants, shorts (covering the knees) and sandals –

just to name a few. Kuwaiti men are rarely seen wearing tank tops or shorts (above the knees) in public places other than the beach. Men wearing any shorts above the knees are not permitted to enter mosques or police stations.


The Kuwaiti woman’s traditional outfit consists of the abaya (black robe) and hijab (headscarf). Kuwaiti women might also wear jeans, pants, skirts or shorts (that cover the knees), or even niqabs (face veils). While women are not required to wear a hijab or an abaya in public, women in Kuwait often dress modestly and will not wear sleeveless shirts, tight clothing, or revealing dresses (that expose their armpits or breasts). Bikinis can only be worn in some private hotels and resorts.

Keep in mind that a Kuwaiti’s choice of clothing does not necessarily reflect his or her political/religious beliefs!


Kuwait is a collectivistic society as opposed to being individualistic. In Kuwait, the needs of a person’s social groups in society are valued more than an individual’s needs. Thus, Kuwaitis often take to consideration the opinions and wishes of their family members before arriving to a decision.


Kuwaitis place less emphasis on punctuality than do people in many other countries. It is very common for Kuwaitis to not arrive to scheduled meetings or events on time. While Kuwaitis do consider excessive tardiness to be impolite, they will often tolerate the tardiness of those that they hold dear to their hearts. Furthermore, a Kuwaiti’s sense of punctuality will often depend on the situation. For example, while Kuwaitis might not bother to arrive on time to a friend’s birthday party, they will make an effort to arrive on time for a dentist’s appointment or final exam!

Personal Space

Kuwaitis tend to stand about two feet away from each other when conversing with strangers or people of the opposite sex (outside of their family), and about an arm-length apart from each other when conversing with family members and friends. However, Kuwaitis stand much closer to each other when they’re in a queue.

Conversation Style

Kuwaitis often exchange pleasantries and discuss trivial matters before getting to the main topic of discussion. Kuwaitis employ an indirect communication style when conversing with each other to spare the other person’s feelings and allow both sides to save face. Kuwaitis find it polite to “pause” or “discontinue” a personal conversation when a new person walks in to make that person feel welcomed and included.


Kuwaitis are well known for their hospitality and generosity. It is always polite to accept—no matter how little—food or drinks that are being offered to you by your host. While some Kuwaitis might take offense if a guest rejects their offerings, others will simply stop with the insisting.


Kuwaitis like to celebrate special occasions by giving out gifts to their relatives, friends, neighbors, and even their acquaintances. The type of gift depends on the giver’s relationship to the recipient. For example, a small, inexpensive gift such as a box of chocolate can be given out to a neighbor or an acquaintance at work when one returns from a trip abroad; however, expensive gifts, such as designer-made watches and bracelets are only reserved to close relatives and friends that could be getting married or graduating from college. Gifts are not to be opened when received – a small thank-you note or text to be sent to the gift giver afterwards is always appreciated!


Not all Kuwaitis regard domestic animals as highly as others might do in other places in the world. While some animals such as goats are valued highly by Kuwaitis for their religious significance (Eid sacrifice), other animals such as pigs are not favored as much as Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. Families that do have dogs, usually—but not always—leave dogs outside the house to serve as guard dogs.


Most Kuwaitis are adherents to the religion of Islam. However, it’s important to note that not all Kuwaiti Muslims believe in the same thing—some might hold more conservative beliefs than others, belong to a different sect of Islam (Sunni or Shiite), etc. While some Kuwaitis are tolerant to members of other religions, others are not as accepting.

Racism & Discrimination

Racism and discrimination in Kuwait are prevalent at varying degrees—some get affected more than others. However, no one’s quite immune from racism/discrimination in Kuwait. In today’s increasingly globalized world, individuals in Kuwait are seen as having more than one identity—belonging to more than one social group. In no discernible order, a person’s ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, socio-economic class, profession—to name a few—all play a role in determining how a person is treated by the mainstream Kuwaiti society. Yet, those that make an evident effort to be culturally respectful, end up being treated more favorably than others by both Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis.

Crimes & Safety

Recent reports have shown that Kuwait is among the safest countries in the Middle East.[2] Crimes that occur in Kuwait are mostly targeted and not random. When crimes do occur, there tends to be a pre-existing personal relationship between the attacker and the victim. Women and men are not advised to walk alone in poorly lit areas late at night. Always agree with the taxi driver on a price before you hop in a cab.

About the Author

Bader Alfarhan is a third year sociocultural anthropology major at the University of Washington, Seattle. An Al-Bayan Bilingual School alumnus, Bader has travelled extensively to more than 30 countries and territories – having just gotten back from a study abroad trip to French Polynesia. Bader enjoys spending his free time volunteering as a Lead Facilitator with the Foundation of International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS). Bader can be reached at alfarhan.bader (at) -- he will always be happy to answer your questions may it be in regards to Kuwaiti culture or the lives of Kuwaitis studying abroad!

[1] In this definition, the term blood excludes “cousins” as cousins are allowed to marry each other under Sharia (Islamic) law.

[2] See the Global Peace Index for the latest rankings.

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BiH Youth Leadership Fall 2014: The Learning Continues

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Nov 06, 2014 12:05 PM |
Four young leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina write about their life-changing experiences in Seattle.

The participants in the Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina are adapting to daily life in the Seattle area and learning all kinds of things about local culture. They're also gaining skills and confidence to be leaders in their own communities once they return home. Read four excellent blog entries by Ena, David, Irfan, and Anja about their experiences!

A life-changing experience - by Ena Jusufbegovic

I'm just a regular high school student and my name is Ena Jusufbegovic. But one call changed my life, I found out that I am a participant of Youth Leadership Program. That's a big thing for a 16 year old girl from Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Being here is so much fun and I enjoy every second. So far, I have had two host families, and both of them are very nice, and I feel comfortable with them. My current host family has a dog and a cat, and I like that because I'm an animal lover. I also have two dogs at home.

The Youth Leadership Program is a great opportunity for young people to become active citizens and to learn how to make a change. It also brings you many new experiences, friends, you get to see many places you might never see again, all mixed together with a lot of fun. Everything is interesting, and you just can't be bored.

But one place we visited left a big impression on me and I admire people who donate, volunteer and work for food banks. I visited one food bank in Seattle. I volunteered there for two days and I really liked that place. It's warm and full of feelings. Everyone who walks in  is there because they have a reason. But all those people are nice, generous and you feel their sadness disappearing when you smile at them. You feel great when you realise that you are helping someone. Talking to them and collecting food for them was a big experience for me. Seeing all the generous people bringing donations makes me really happy because I can feel that we are helping. I decided to do more volunteering and to get involved when I get home. I feel like we need a food bank there too, because it is useful and it helps people. I know that many people would be willing to help and to participate in opening food banks in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

We just need to put some effort and we can do it because people in need deserve to have a place like that. No one can choose their faith and you never know what is going to come to you in your lifetime. We have to think about others and consider their opinions. We can do a survey and see if people are interested in opening food bank, and if they are, we should make a plan how to do that. I also think that we can do anything by ourselves if we try hard enough. Even if we fail at first, we should never give up. We need to fight for what we want.

I came to America to learn a lot, and I feel like I'm already accomplishing my goal. There is so much to learn and I'm excited to use all the knowledge when I get home. I hope that our group will make a change in our community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Holy Grail - by David Jeremic

Woah, we’re here. I can’t believe it. One day, I’m sitting in my English class, next day I’m traveling the world and living my dream. This is so weird. I’m so thankful to the people that helped me get this far. I’ve met some people on this trip I know I can count on. Even though we’ve barely started, I’ve had some experiences that’ll keep me motivated no matter what I do.Just being here proves to me that I am able to accomplish anything. My flaws are not a setback,they are a challenge to overcome. The reason I entered this program is because I saw that both my country and me need to change. We need to toughen up and make the changes that are necessary. I'm doing that,and I know if people like this run our country, we’ve got nothing to worry about.

Since our arrival, we’ve learned so much it’s hard to put it in a short blog entry, so I’ll describe what affected me the most. A few days ago,we visited the University of Washington for the first time, and it was like BAM!, this is my future school. The second we walked in, I knew this was the thing I was working toward. The way the University works, the way people help each other, how everything is so vast and organized just affected me. It was déjà vu, I knew that I had been here before, and I was coming back. I’m the kind of person that needs a palpable goal to reach. Now that I’ve found that, I'm like a star, you can't stop my shine.

We’ve had plenty of seminars which have taught us new ways to improve our communities,and that’s exactly what I intend to do. People say change is hard. I say they’re right, it is hard, but it’s not impossible. We have a lot of problems, but if we work towards solving them,we will solve them. If people tell you “You can’t do this,” turn around, smile in their faces and tell them “Yes we can!”

To green or not to green, there is no question! - by Irfan Osmanović

To be a true Seattelite is to recycle, to watch in which bin you're throwing your trash away and to be aware of importance of preserving nature.

Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Irfan Osmanovic and I'm a 17 year old high school student from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I came to Seattle about ten days ago with Youth Leadership Program, which is hosted by Foundation for International Understanding Through Students and funded by U.S. Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (Thank you!).

In the past week and a half I have truly learned a lot, in sessions and in classes, but there are many valuable life lessons I have learned from my hosts and other Americans. Lessons like environmental care.

To be honest, although I have been traveling a lot in the past, I have never seen a nation so aware of importance of clean and safe environment for our and future generations. Anywhere you go in the city of Seattle you'll see water wells where you can pour water into your bottle for free, for no money and for no harm for the environment, you will also see recyclable napkins, tissues and boxes in every restaurant. Main purpose of recycling is trying not to create unnecessary waste. My host parents have showed me how to get used to dividing my trash and leftovers every single day into different trash cans, so they can be properly recycled. Environmental care became significant part of American culture, and American culture is one of the reasons why I'm here!

Recycling is not implemented at all in my country, but I will be proud of coming back home with such knowledge. I will make sure to let everyone know that I won't remember Seattle for its amazing downtown, shopping malls, Space Needle or rainy weather, but I will always remember the Emerald City as a city of pure and clean love for our planet.


Stepping out of my comfort zone - by Anja Gavrić

Hello everyone! My name is Anja and I am 17 years old. I will start off by telling you how I felt before coming to USA so you can understand my story, or even the title.

Being chosen for this program was a big deal to me. I mean, I get to meet new people, try new food, learn, etc. But there was one problem, I was too scared of being judged. Before the pre-departure program in Sarajevo I thought to myself: "These people don't know you so make a good first impression." I still couldn't do it. Being in a room with 17 different people was hard and scary to me. I was usually "sitting in the corner" and agreed to everything just so I don't say something stupid.

I kept doing that until I got a challenge: I had to lead the first morning meeting with my friend Vanja. Morning meeting is a meeting where you usually talk about a subject that's connected to the program. Now imagine you had to do something for the first time that you never saw anyone do, but you are under pressure that it has to be perfect so people don't judge you. Terrifying, right? If I said that I was feeling fine the night before and the day of the morning meeting I would be lying. I was a nervous wreck. But, somehow, the meeting went great! Everyone participated and no rude comments were thrown at us. It was the moment that I started feeling as a member of the team.

That day was the day that I opened up. I'm much more relaxed now and I can talk to everyone now because I feel accepted. Will I be like this when I get back home? Maybe, but it's important for me to know that I made that first step and that's a progress. Thanks YLP!


The Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program here.

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The FIUTS Experience for a Recent Graduate

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Nov 06, 2014 10:55 AM |
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Kailyn is teaching English in France this year - and, in her free time, meeting up with FIUTS friends across the globe!

Guest post by Kailyn Swarthout

My name is Kailyn and I started volunteering with FIUTS in 2012, at the beginning of my junior year. I have been involved in several aspects of the organization since then: a facilitator, lead facilitator, CulturalFest committee member, intern etc. I graduated from UW in June and recently started teaching English at a high school in Marseille, France.

Leaving Seattle and moving to a new country was simultaneously exciting and really difficult. Saying goodbye to my Northwest family and friends, and to the FIUTS community that had been such an integral part of my college life was one of the hardest parts. Luckily, I soon realized that FIUTS is a community that extends far beyond the reaches and time constraints of two years in Seattle.

I arrived in Marseille at the end of September and started my teaching position on October 1st (but really after paperwork and orientation I started on the 7th). After a full week and a half of classes, my school district had a two week vacation. From the beginning, our big group of language assistants had been talking travel plans. I have had the privilege to spend some time traveling around Europe before. I spent a semester in Prague in 2012 and visited many European capitals, wonderful museums, monuments, beautiful buildings and gardens, and ate all sorts of delicious food. All of those experiences were great, and I learned a lot about Europe and about myself.

But the experiences that remain the most vivid in my mind are usually not the beautiful sights I saw, but the times I spent with friends going to softball games, sitting in hammocks by lake cabins during thunderstorms, spending way too long on public transportation after starting off in the wrong direction, and making crepes by the pool with garden fresh raspberries. So this time around I made the decision to try to visit more people than places. I have FIUTS to thank for having the ability to make that choice.

Kailyn (third from right) and FIUTS friends at last year's Global Getaway trip to Portland.

Over my two week break I had a wonderful time wandering around the parks and markets of Berlin with my friend Christian whom I met at FIUTS camp last autumn, caught up with Zuzana and Ben at National Day festivities in Vienna, both of whom were in my campus tour group during Winter 2013 orientation, and then went on a wonderful tour of Zurich and celebrated Halloween Swiss style with Lukas and Dominic who both came to UW for a computer science exchange during successive quarters in 2014. I met Dominic on a trip to Leavenworth in February and was introduced to Lukas during spring orientation. Despite my visit falling right in the middle of a busy semester, everyone was extremely welcoming and gave me great insight into what it’s like to live in their cities.

Kailyn with Christian and Lukas in Zurich.

When I am done with my teaching program in May, I plan to go visit my SUSI friends in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka and then hopefully stop by Japan on my way back to the Pacific Northwest. And the community doesn’t end there. When I finally get back to Seattle I can become a homestay host, and continue to attend CulturalFest, community potlucks and other events. That’s the most amazing thing about FIUTS. It’s an organization that you can be involved in for a lifetime and a community that reaches all the way around the world. Moving to a new country can be really hard, but knowing that you’ll always have FIUTS friends just around the corner makes it much, much easier.

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BiH Youth Leadership Fall 2014: Welcome to Seattle

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Oct 31, 2014 01:20 PM |
Four blog posts from high school students learning about community service - and much more - during four weeks in the United States.

From learning about tolerance and diversity to volunteering at local food banks and creating their own political ads, the Youth Leadership Program participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina have accomplished a lot in their first week! Read blog posts below from Pavle, Elena, Damir, and Ana to learn more about their experiences so far.



Tolerance is a Turtle - by Pavle Koljančić

Hi, I'm Pavle. I am a sixteen year old student from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I came here to the US as a participant in the Youth Leadership Program. The story that I want to tell starts in the pre-departure program in Sarajevo, there the FIUTS staff was talking about tolerance in the US, and to give us an example, they told us a joke . The joke went like this:

“One guy walks up to the other and says I believe that the world stands on top of giant turtle that created everything, and the other guy answers: that is stupid… and I respect that.”

Back then I thought that they were just telling us that so we would ourselves tolerate others and differences and I didn't believe that it was true that people act like that. So for my first weekend, I stayed with Dave, a FIUTS homestay host. He is a 60 year old, retired electric engineer  and a veteran of the Vietnam war . On Sunday he took me to an Asian store while he was protesting on a crossroad for an hour and he told me he does that, the protesting, every Sunday with others. That was kind of surprising to me. So while I was walking through the Asian store I heard people talking in different languages, there were a lot of Asian products from living crabs to original Japanese sake and I realized that was their own microcosms, their own little world. The first thought that came to my mind: “How does that work ?”

I  mean that could never work in my country, people just wouldn’t stand it, there would be violence. So when I went out of the store to the crossroad where Dave was protesting I saw him, a 60 year old guy, protesting on a crossroad, about things that don't really affect him at all - like the minimum wages and involvement of the US in the Middle East.  And that’s the point it got to my mind. There maybe were people that dislike the Asian stores, restaurants etc., but they tolerate it and there are people for sure that disagree with Dave’s protesting and opinions but they tolerate it and they respect his right of free speech.

And it’s that respect that they show to others that they demand for themselves. You have to tolerate their opinions and beliefs.

So I thought to myself at the beginning, well if they tolerate it that doesn't mean that they like it. So I thought at first it was just covering up the real tensions, but then I thought what would happen if people in my country were like that, if they tolerated each other, that wouldn't destroy the tension at first but people would finally talk more about differences and from that talk, understanding would arise and - with understanding and communication - national, cultural, and ethnic tensions would be lowered.


The Adventure Begins - by Elena Ourdan

Hi everyone. My name is Elena and I'm one of the 2014 YLP participants from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two days ago, in the peace and quiet of our retreat center came a man called Bernie. The center is located in the mountains, and its purpose is to adapt us to our new environment and our teammates. He showed us some group exercises we would have to do. They looked entertaining. But in the next hours, as we struggled with accomplishing our tasks, we learned some valuable life lessons.

One of the exercises was to build a bridge across marked places on the grass, so the entire team could go from one side of the maze to another. Since we didn't have enough planks to build that bridge, we were asked by Bernie to come up with a system of moving those wooden boards repeatedly, allowing every participant to cross to the other side.

After almost an hour of arguing, failing and trying over and over again, we succeeded in our mission of building a sort of draw bridge. But it was only then that we realized the solution of arranging the planks had already been suggested by four different people throughout the game. It showed that we weren't paying enough attention to what the other members of the team had to say.

That's when we understood what it was to be a team. Ignoring each other's suggestions and showing that little respect to one another was simply not acceptable. As the exercises went by, we started learning from our mistakes and became more of a compatible group, helping each other out any being more patient.

Working as a team is important. An idea can be improved if more people are involved and if they can help each other. Rather than being subjective, if more minds are working on it, it is more likely that the result will be better. In the next four weeks of the program, I know we will be able to learn how to function as a real team, and I'm sure we're progressing and learning something new every single day.


Tuesday, October 28 - by Damir Hadžić

Over the last couple of days spent in the USA, I honestly believe that I have changed as a person, and the way I fit into a team. Being thrown into another way of living is an awesome way of reevaluating my own way of thinking and my actions. The Youth Leadership Program is great in the way that it provides us with a lot of opportunities to experience all the parts of American culture, the good and the bad.

Our first presenter in the program was Luis Ortega. He is an expert in political sciences and civic engagement. His speeches were eye-opening. By analyzing great leaders of the past, he explained the things they all had in common. The way I look at problems in my society and how I would approach to solving them is completely different now. We learned about how to pick a problem, how to inspire others to think the same way and how to actually solve it.

Following the great theoretical knowledge on civic engagement we acquired, it was time to put it to practice. Today, I had the best experience in the USA to date. Me and a group of five other people went to a local grocery store to collect donations for the Ballard Food Bank, which we had previously learned a lot about. I was very skeptical about getting food from random people since there were not a lot of customers but I was wrong. It amazed me how generous the people from Seattle were. Customers were actually making an effort and going out of their way to provide for other people.

At the end of the day, I felt great about myself since I know that my effort will make other people happy. I really hope that the rest of the program provides us with great opportunities like these.


New Experiences - by Ana Puljiz

Hello! My name is Ana Puljiz, I am 16 years old, and I live in Sarajevo. Thanks to this amazing project, the Youth Leadership Program, I am able to write this post in the Emerald City. I have been here for a few days, and I have experienced a lot of new and interesting things. I have met new people and tried new food.

Ana (front center) and friends on their way to Seattle!

Although, this experience has been fun, it isn't a vacation. We attend lectures and do projects to improve our leadership skills, our citizen engagement and to learn how to turn our ideas into reality. One of the ways we learn that is by doing charity work. The biggest value of it is remembering the importance of being active in the community and making change.

I was working along with my friends for the food bank, and we were collecting food for the needy. I tried to be smiling and cheerful all the time. It worked for a lot of people, and most of them were really nice. There was one lady who was annoyed by that, but she was an exception. But there was also a lady who told me that she will help us because she was using the food from the food bank once too, and it was the hardest time of her life.

People like that are the reason we should work for a better future. There will be many people who will stand in your way, but for a good cause, there are many more who will help you out.


The Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program here.

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Mental Health Awareness in Nepal

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Oct 30, 2014 04:35 PM |
Kripa, a FIUTS SUSI alum, has made a documentary highlighting mental health issues.

In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Kripa Sigdel from Nepal, an alumna of the FIUTS SUSI program this past summer, created a video on the theme of "Living with Schizophrenia." Read her blog post below on the process of creating the video and what it meant to her.

Digtal Media is one important way by which we can relay information about untalked-about topics to the masses. And being interested in media and also an exchange student of New Media and Journalism, I thought video-making in the form of documentary would be one way I can raise my voice.

Video-making is an interesting yet difficult task. The video-making process is unfamiliar to me. Also, the video-making, translating, and editing is time-consuming. So, since it's my first audio/video documentary, I tried to use the simple tool ‘Movie Maker’ for the editing and combining video/audio files.

The language we use, the information we try to put and the story we want to portray need to be carefully designed in the video. And for this, I have to say, the information and experience I gained in SUSI 2014 helped a lot. The techniques my instructors gave to report and cover the story helped me while conceptualizing this story - Living with Schizophrenia.

Being a psychology student and interested in such topics, I loved making an audio/video documentary to mark Mental Health Day 2014 with the theme "Living with Schizophrenia." And being interested in New Media and Journalism, this video making process is something which I enjoyed. This gave me encouragement to make other videos and also this helped me to learn from my first one while coming up with others in the near future.

You can watch Kripa's video here. Thank you to Kripa and all the other FIUTS SUSI alumni for their continued work to make the world a better place!

The Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars. Study of the U.S. Institutes are short-term academic programs for groups of undergraduate leaders, educators, and scholars from around the world.

The program in Seattle is coordinated by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), a local non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Washington that promotes international friendship and cross-cultural understanding in the region. The Seattle Globalist, a daily publication covering the connections between Seattle and the rest of the globe, collaborates with FIUTS to deliver courses on topics in journalism and new media.

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Chili and Apple Pie with the FIUTS Facilitator Family

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Oct 28, 2014 02:45 PM |
Yanran shares memories and pictures from the recent Facilitator Fall Social.

Guest post by FIUTS facilitator & Student Board member Yanran Zheng

On Thursday, October 16th, I went to the FIUTS facilitator fall social event. Now over a week has been past, but I’m still being nostalgic and would like to think back from time to time. I remember how much we expected this cooking party and excited about knowing new friends; I remember everyone’s face when they were so earnest for preparing and cooking foods; I can even tell the smell of the appetizing food! Thanks to this event, I got to know many new friends and had a good chance to catch up with some old friends. Also as a Student Board Leadership Chair, I can see that novice facilitators were nicely involved with our big FIUTS family, and experienced ones got a good opportunity to know each other deeper.

Below are some pictures from the event. They were all my precious memories!

This is our beef chili group! Not so much cut and chops, but we did enjoy mixing all the ingredients together! Sense of fulfillment!


The apple pie group. No one can resist the smell of it. Yummy yummy!

The salad group. Pretty girls and fresh veggies! Thumbs up!


Huge “success” for cornbread lol! A surprising and funny episode during the event—burnt cornbread. But I’d say it still tasted great and special! And one of the facilitators called Anya just liked the burned part so much!


A group photo! I call it “Yummy People”


Lonely Allan—the cleaning group? Lol

Thanks to all our sweet and reliable facilitators!!!  :-)


Learn more about the FIUTS facilitator program here.

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