International Writers' Club

For the last several years, Anne P. Copeland, Ph.D. (Executive Director of The Interchange Institute) has been meeting with small groups of parents from the local school system in our town, Brookline, MA. Brookline is a wonderfully international community; one elementary school boasts 50 different passport countries among its 450 students. She wanted to give newcomer parents a chance to discuss the cultural differences they encountered and to practice their written and spoken English. They also wanted to share the group's insights with the whole school community, so the American parents and teachers would learn about the cultural issues facing their new neighbors. Meetings were supported by funds from The Brookline Community Fund and The Brookline Center.

Prior to every meeting, two or three parents would forward a short essay to Anne about some practical cultural difference they had observed.

They were asked to answer three questions in their essays:

  1. How does this aspect of life work in your home country?
  2. What surprised you about this in the US?
  3. What would you like Americans to understand about how this works in your culture?

She made any needed grammatical corrections and distributed the essays to the rest of the members. When the group gathered together at the Writer's Club meeting, they spent their time discussing the cultural issues and insights. They discussed word choice and connotation, differing perspectives from the same and different cultures, historical roots of differences, frustrations, and admiration. What had started out as a description of some practical aspect of life with a child turned into a revealing look at profoundly important and deep cultural differences.

Later, Anne wrote a short reply from the American point of view, and these essays and replies were published in the school newsletter. In this way, the entire school community got a glimpse of these parents' insights and views, and had a basis for welcoming international newcomers. Teachers and American parents appreciated hearing about these cultural differences, and other international parents said they valued having a way to have a voice at the school.

These essays collectively give a sense of the challenges newcomers to the US face as they struggle to raise their children according to the values they cherish while opening their lives to the experience of living in a new culture.

Read some samples of essays along with comments for each one,

Also available is our new book, In Their Own Voice: Intercultural Meaning in Everyday Stories, a collection of 60 Writers Club stories with questions and comments.

We are now beginning a "Virtual Writer's Club," for international writers around the US who would like to discuss and write about cultural issues. Just follow the simple steps below. Welcome to the Writer's Club!

Virtual Writer's Club Instructions
1) Pick one of these three topics:

  • Think about your child's first week of school in your new country. What was one thing that surprised you? How is it different in your home country? What would you like your hosts to understand about how this is handled in your culture?
  • Think about your first week living in your new country - shopping, driving, setting up your home, meeting neighbors, etc. What about daily living was the most different from your home country? Describe what happened in your new country, how it would have happened in your home country, and what your reactions were.
  • Think of a time since you have moved to your new country when you wished you were completely fluent in the local language. Describe what was happening. Then write three words that describe how you felt.
2) Send your essay to us. We will choose essays that we think will be of broad interest to visitors to this web site, correspond with those authors about suggested wording or grammar changes, write a brief reply, then post them on this site.

3) If you would like to add to, comment on, or disagree or agree with any of the posted essays and replies, let us hear from you too!

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