Riley Nelson has a unique connection to Johnson. She graduated in 2010, completed her undergraduate degree at Kansas State, and then joined the Peace Corps. Right now she’s serving in Indonesia as an English teacher. And now, a handful of years later, she’s found a way to give back to her high school campus.
“She [Nelson] messaged me back in like October, and she wanted to get a communication between American students and her students to share culture, to share school, [learn] what school was like; interests- what their’s are, what ours are, and have kids start a communication between [the students],” U.S. History and ESL teacher Sandra Guenther said. “And we actually started calling it the ‘Johnson Pen Pal’ and then we did the Twitter account.”
The aforementioned Twitter account serves as a method of communication between the students at Johnson and the students in Indonesia.
“So basically it’s kind of like a pen pal service, we send videos of what school and life is like over here, and they send videos back, and I’m the camera person, and I keep in touch with her and the kids too,” junior Leah Hartman said.
The main purpose of the IndonJohnson Twitter page is to educate both groups of students about the differences that exist in the cultures of the US and Indonesia.
“So, their cultures are very different , over here we’re more relaxed toward different, we’re on individualism, they’re more about uniforms at school, and the funding for the school is probably a little less than Johnson.” Junior Braxton Beltran said. “So their culture in what they have is different, like in the video that we saw the [activity of riding] mopeds to school, like, that’s not something we do. And so, it helps them see Western culture, and what it’s like.”
The questions posed by the students from Indonesia also forced the students at Johnson to think deeply about how many aspects of American culture are different from other countries’ cultures.
“One of their first questions was: ‘What is American culture?’” Guenther said. “and we all said, we were all looking at each other going: ‘How do you describe American culture?… because being a free enterprise system, and having all the readily available things we have, they don’t have that,” Guenther said.
Another main discussion topic between the students of both countries was certain phrases that are commonly used in Texas, but not necessarily in other places
“The #1 question for Riley Nelson was: ‘What’s y’all’ and she really had to go through an English lesson with them, and you’ll see it on the Twitter feed out there, how they had to clarify what y’all meant.” Guenther said. “And it was very cute, very cute, and she loved that her kids were grasping our culture, and we’re seeing what their culture is. and they’re all the same age and they all share the same interests.”
The IndonJohnson Twitter page will most definitely give students a more open mind towards other cultures, as well as educate them about the many differences between our American culture and the Indonesian culture.
“I think it’s gonna be a really cool culture shock for them, and a culture shock for us too, because we’re two very different countries, so I think it’s going to be really interesting for the kids to see what life is like over here,” Hartman said.