The European Union is the most divided region in the world on the topic of immigration. Scores on the 9 point Migrant Acceptance Index range from a high of 7.92 in Sweden to a low of 1.69 in Hungary. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump requested $25 billion to fund a US-Mexico border wall, even though a Quinnipiac University study found that the majority of Americans oppose the border wall, as do the majority of PenPals.
Students who empathize with immigrant experiences are better equipped with knowledge and social skills to engage in respectful conversations around policy. This week, we celebrate Nikki and Kye from an IB school in Thailand as PenPals of the Week. They participated in Immigration in the 21st Century to learn about how immigrants impact communities and shared their families’ immigration stories with their peers.
Nikki, Kye, and their PenPals learned about the different reasons why people immigrate. For example, economic immigrants seek out job opportunities elsewhere to improve the quality of life for their families. Nikki V. shares how her mother moved to America to pursue medical training that empowered her to improve the lives of many other people too:
“Communities should accept and welcome immigrants from around the world, because immigrants help the community that they are in by bringing their culture, food, music, ideas, and more, which benefit the destination country.
Likewise, Kye P. tells the riveting tale of how his grandfather, Papa, and his family emigrated from the Soviet zone of Austria to escape persecution:
“I moved from Australia to Bangkok, Thailand last year. I think we should let immigrants in to our country because we are all human. We may have different cultures, but that is not an excuse for beating or teasing someone for their race. I would like to share some stories about my grandparents because they were both immigrants.
Kye reflected on how the project and his fellow PenPals taught him a lot about immigration, but also encouraged him to learn more about his own family’s immigrant experience.
"I loved the Immigration project because I didn't know the history of my grandparents before. I love history and to be able to know more about my heritage and my family's history was great. I learned more about how Austria was split up like Germany and I found that interesting. I find that PenPal Schools is a good tool to learn more information about what we've never knew about, how to talk better with people on the internet, and also how to learn about how we can make a difference."
Nikki was also eager to join in on the conversation and develop her writing skills.
“I like the way PenPal Schools is set up because you feel encouraged to keep writing more as you can see other students responding to you and that is very exciting."
Immigration can be a sensitive topic, but with over 250 million immigrants in the world, it’s a topic that can’t be ignored. Students should learn about policies, statistics, and trends related to immigration, but stories like these humanize and ground the conversation around people instead of just numbers. Empathy is the key to civil discourse around big issues. Thank you Nikki and Kye for sharing your families’ stories with our PenPal community!
Want your students to learn about how immigration affects people and communities around the world? Enroll your class in Immigration in the 21st Century.