Coming together as one

Luci Nguyen, News Assistant Editor

Students in Mrs. Richmond’s Spanish IV speak to Ricksen Vallenos (second from left) from the Phillipines. Richmond Photo.

As Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political activist and journalist, once said, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Each year, Xavier High School sets aside one day in October for high school foreign exchange students to have the opportunity to meet students as well as each other. This year, the 38th annual Xavier International Round Table took place on October 20. Surrounding schools that participated in this event were Washington, Linn- Mar, Springville and Beckman Catholic. The Round Table has a theme of “One small step toward world peace through mutual understanding,” giving students the chance to have an appreciation of differences within our country. This event is a continuation of the International Round Table started at Regis High School in 1984 and is designed to give students the chance to meet and discuss topics of national and international concern. From Belgium to Tanzania to the Philippines, students from 11 countries around the globe participated in discussions throughout the day in the classroom or panel setting. Many student volunteers from Xavier aided in the event’s success. “Because the group was so small, the students were all really engaged and I think that we got just as much out of it as if we were to have a big group,” senior Abby Globokar, a student volunteer and one of the coordinators of the International Round Table, said. Fifteen international students participated in this event, and Linn-Mar’s Ricksen Vallenos from the Philippines helped give insight on his favorite thing about Xavier’s International Round Table. “I like how they can ask all about my home country and communicate to me about it with some interest,” Vallenos said. With the global pandemic, many challenges have arisen for international foreign exchange students, especially with gaining a Visa. According to University World News, last spring, the United States State Department acknowledged that its recently opened US embassies and consulates were struggling to catch up on processing visas. More than 500,000 applicants had completed their paperwork for all kinds of Visas by April 30, 2021. Only 22,576 had been scheduled for interviews. According to the US State Department, reasons for Visa backlogs vary from country to country. Factors include local and national lockdown, travel restrictions, quarantine regulations based off of the host country and the US embassies’ COVID-19 policies. Many international students from colleges or universities were faced with the question of whether they could return to the United States for the fall semester. Emma Balkenhol is an exchange student from Germany and studies at Washington High School. She expressed a lot of concern on whether she could come over to the United States to study. “I had a scholarship, so I was nervous until April [of 2021]. There was a question on whether I could come . . . It was very stressful,” Balkenhol said. Despite all these challenges, many students continued to study in the United States, which goes to show their dedication and patience within this process. Learning about many different cultures does not stop with Xavier’s International Round Table. Go and learn about what the community can offer.