Unexpected similarities

By Elizabeth W. Wilson

Posters with English words were scattered around the white walls of the small classroom. The shades were pulled over the windows and a ceiling fan moved around the warm air creating a slow breeze. There were twenty school with desks attached. We filled them, alternating between American and Cambodian students. We were there for an introductory English lesson.

I sat next to a young Cambodian woman who came prepared with her notebook and small pouch of pens. She gave me a good look, looked at the board, then looked back at me and smiled. She then asked me for my name.

“My name is Elizabeth,” I replied, “And what is yours?”

She managed to say “My name Kho Channa,” before her smile took over and she broke out in a laugh. Our conversation followed a normal progression.

We quickly found out that we have a lot in common. We are both 20 years old. We both have one older brother and we both dream of being professors. Throughout the class, we would both catch each other’s eye and laugh at the same things. While our basic conversation in broken elementary English made us sound like twins, it was hard to ignore the different worlds that we had come from. But despite our cultural differences and our language difficulties, I felt so natural laughing with Kho. As the class continued, we would both exchange smiles.

By the end of the class, I had realized that our different lives and cultures didn’t matter, because for one hour, we were sharing the same experience.

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