Alla Golovanova'00, Saratov
Placement Organization - ASSE
What I gained from the program? Well, lot's of things. First of all I became more flexible, I learnt to be independent and more sociable. While staying in the United States my whole world outlook, values and beliefs changed. I learnt to be a 'future leader'.
In America I participated in another program of democracy studying in Washington, DC. Again, this program opened the whole new world to me. I came closer to understanding the current political and economic issues of Russia and the USA, the ways of solving the problems that people face in the world, the main principles of democracy, its ranges of freedom, the important things that my country should borrow as an example to follow from the USA.
Now I know that only being active can change the world, the society we live in. That's why after coming back to Russia I started my project of helping the orphan kids and giving English lessons with other volunteers to the children. Again, without my American experience and without help of the program I would never be able to organize my project. I believe that my impact and the impact of other volunteers and alumnus on the social life of my country is important as we do make the difference, we change things, trying to bring to life what we learnt in the USA. I want to say a big 'THANK YOU' to the program and people who organize it for teaching me probably the most important lesson in my life and giving me a chance to make a difference in my community!
Julia Isaeva'00, Krasnodar
Hello! My name is Julia Isaeva and I am Krasnodar alumna of the FSA/FLEX program of the year 2000.
What can I say about the program? It's one of the best things I ever experienced. I don't want to sound banal but it's really great! I would never think that something like that would happen to me. I'm still proud that I'm the part of our exchange program. It gave so much to me! What does this program do to people?
I would like to start with the international relations developing. While in the US I've been living in the small town named Lebanon, Oregon. I think that students in my High School have never met the Russian student before. Some of them didn't even believe that I came from Russia. First time I was the most popular student because everybody was coming and asking the questions about country, culture, traditions and millions of other things. It was exciting because I never thought I would be telling anybody about my native country. I had lots of books and brochures about Russia with me so I wasn't just talking but showing them different pictures. Then I was asked to speak about my country in the Geography, International Relations and German classes. I had also given speeches in my church, the Book Clubs, lots of children clubs, on the fundraisers and so on. So more than one half of our 12000 populations had met me. I was even asked to cook some Russian food several times and I was very proud of myself when everybody liked it. What about me getting used to American culture I almost didn't have the long cultural shock some people scared me about. Thanks to my host family and friends from different classes who actually were explaining me almost every word. They were really patient with me and my English.
The second thing is that I've got many friends and 'relatives' (I mean host relatives), I still keep in touch with most of them. Sometimes they ask me to send them some books and souvenirs and I do it with pleasure. Some of them already have huge collections of 'Russian stuff'. They are very happy to know a lot about another country and even to know some Russian words. We have a chance to meet in different chats and talk through the Internet and on the phone. We like to discuss things and problems with each other and realize that although we are living thousands of miles away we don't have so much difference in our spirits.
Here in Russia I enjoy giving speeches about my international experience. I have six big photo albums taken from the US and the students from different faculties of my University invite me to speak about American people and their culture. I'm also being a volunteer in the Russian-American Intercultural Center where we help and inform students who are going to study in the US.
The year in the US had really made a great impact on me. I became more independent and self-sure, more patient and nice to people. I know now that it's not scary to travel to long distances and get to know different people. I'm sure that my future job would be related to International Relations or International Business because it will give me the chance to travel a lot and see lots of new things.
What about the pre-department orientation, which I had in June '99, I really liked it. It was fun but at the same time it was really useful. Sometimes we were playing but at the same time getting so much information. I can say that it really helped me in my 'American life' and my relations with American people. We were making notes at the orientation and this notebook helped me a lot. I actually still keep it as a memory of these wonderful days I had spent in Volgograd.
I hope that next generations will be able to experience as much as I had and have as much wonderful memories as me.
Hi! My name is Dasha Karpenko. I am alumni from Volgograd. I have spent a school year 2000-2001 in Piedmont, South Carolina. My Placement Organization was NACEL.
I would like to share with you what FSA FLEX program gave me. A year in America helped me to make a lot of new friends and to become a little bit of a psychologist. That helps me a lot in life right now. Dealing with a lot of people helped me to understand them better. I learned to be more independent. I think I became more mature. Since I have been in different families I learned how to get adapted to different situations. I also discovered a lot of opportunities I might have in my life. I am taking part in Alumni Club activities and this is so great there is an opportunity for us to still keep in touch after we come back and work together on projects. I think alumni is a huge source for ideas to improve our society.
I can even work while I am studying (in summer camps in different countries and so on), take part in other different programs. I am so grateful to my host families. They took me to wonderful places and helped me to learn their culture, they took care of me and always were there for me when I needed. I will have those memories for the rest of my life. The FSA FLEX program made a lot of positive changes in my life. I want to say huge thanks to it.
Elena Verbitskaya'01, Volgograd
Placement Organization - YFU
FSA FLEX program is a wonderful opportunity for any person to change his/her life! I could never think it was going to make such a great and significant impact on me and my future. I came back to my home country Russia completely differently seeing the world and thinking about life. Living in a different culture away from home helped me to become more mature, independent, self-confident, persistent and brave.
Being involved in activities of my YFU placement organization I had a chance to meet exchange students from different countries and share some best times of my life with them. I was using my chance to learn things about other countries directly from people who lived there because as I learned it was the best way. We taught each other various games, cooked national foods, played sports, had discussions on the topics of life and future, went shopping and celebrated holidays. Nowhere else and never again a person can have so many foreign students around to talk and share something together. This is one of the greatest things of the program - you get to learn so much from so many people and you get to teach them a lot about yourself and your country, you get to make friends and memories for life. And these 'footprints' will stay in my heart forever.
Right now having this experience I know I will manage anywhere, I can go to different countries and communicate with people without fear and shyness. I am getting invitations to go to Europe for visiting my exchange friends I have met in the United States and it is so exciting!
Being an exchange student in America gave me opportunity to travel and participate in some educational programs and workshops. I won a scholarship from Close Up foundation to take part in a civic education workshop in Washington DC: there I met several senators and representatives and had a chance to discuss some vital issues with them, ask questions. I participated in Lubbock county week and met with some officials from my home town.
What really helped me to adapt to the US culture and life is a Pre-departure orientation in my home town Volgograd about a month before my departure from here. We had many opportunities to talk to American PDO teachers and ask them questions that we were interested in hearing answers for. I found it very useful to chat with alumni that went for the program few years before me. They shared their experience that helped me later when I had just arrived to my new placement. Without learning some cultural aspects of life in the US during PDO it would have been impossible for me to get accustomed so quickly. Some things would have seemed more difficult to overcome and cope with. Honestly, I am so thankful to the teachers that gave me so much useful information and who in a way helped my year to be more memorable. Also, American Councils staff were very helpful consulting me with questions I had considering: my departure, flights, placement. After I came back home I realized that they have very American 'enthusiastic' spirit, they are very friendly.
Since my return, I have been an active member of Alumni Club in Volgograd, I took part in some conferences and seminars, went for several trips and met more interesting active alumni from all over Russia. My world had opened up and broadened up thanks to the opportunities FSA FLEX program offers for us. And I know that every person who has once participated in cultural exchange feels its influence on his/her future. I feel like a FUTURE LEADER of my country. And being a leader to me means to have an unwritten responsibility to be active, to be an example for others, to take care of the future and to do things for the good of your people, your nation. The program changed my life and now I am trying to change lives of other people - this is a multiplying effect that is spread over local community and among all people around. I know we can make a difference and the majority of us are making it one or the other way. Every year there are more of us in different parts of the country and putting our effort together toward mutual goal will one day change everything and turn this world for the better.
Natasha Bochkareva'01, Volgograd
Placement Organization - AYUSA
This is my letter of support, and I can't help writing it, since once in my life I've got a support that helped me to gain very much in this world. That was the support in my wish to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it helped me to visit the United States being on a program of cultural exchange. Thank you for it!
During my stay in the US I have changed a lot: it is not only that I improved my knowledge of English and found new friends, I have become more independent, patient, understanding and self-confident. Of course I am not the right person to judge here, but I believe I'm right. Now it's easier for me to contact people, since I had a long experience of doing it in 'extreme situations' (when nobody around really knows you and your language). I realize that a person must change within a year, no matter where he/she spends it - he/she is simply growing up or growing more wise, but I can say that thanks to FSA FLEX program the change that occured in me was three times as good as it could have been in Russia.
One more great side of the program is that once you gain something, you can never lose it if you don't want to. Right now I have a lot of chances to turn back to 'good old American times' and to the future at the same time, being an alumna. It feels really right to realize that you are a part of a huge association, that is bringing understanding and joy to this life. I haven't accomplished really much in my alumna career, but I can say that I kept myself busy and I was really happy to take part in each activity I participated in. Since I have come here, I helped alumni to organize a Saint-Valentine's Day celebration in one of schools on the outskirts of our city, and I was a debate-team member twice (in Ekaterinburg and in Moscow). There are three words I can say about those activities: I HAD FUN! And also I gained experience.
So, the summer has already started and 'fresh' kids are getting ready to go to the US. This period is very important for them, because they have to be ready for the completely new invironment. In this case the PDO is really helpful. As for me, I can say that when I've just come to the US, everybody was asking me: 'Is there anything really new and unusual you have found out about America since coming here'. And every time I heard that question I realized that there was nothing really shocking for me - I've learnt A LOT at PDO and the info really helped me out, so the orientations are really important for the program participants.
Well, I guess, I have to finish, otherwise I'm gonna write a broshure right on the spot, because there is really a lot to say in support of this great act of freedom and friendship and all the people who organize it.
Alexey Sheldeshov,01, Krasnodar
Hello FSA FLEX staff,
My name is Alexey Sheldeshov. I am a 2000-2001 FSA FLEX alum. I went to Pennsylvania, Smethport. I would like to say, that that year was the most interesting and amazing year in my whole entire life.
Before I came to the United States I was kind of dreaming about my family, my town. And still having an orientation program in Volgograd, I kept dreaming that my town will be big, not with skyscrapers of course but at least more than Krasnodar (I lived in Krasnodar all my life). It appeared that Smethport was a very small town, and in the very beginning it was kind of shocking, because everybody knew each other and you couldn't come in town without being noticed. So as I say I was a little bit shocked. But later I realized that big cities and other stereotypes about the US are not the main thing. I have learned a lot during my long trip to the US. I had some problems and I had to solve them. I think that made me stronger.
It happened that during all my life I was interested in the United States, not in its pop culture, but in its real traditions, history and people. And FSA FLEX program helped me a lot. It helped not only giving me an opportunity to visit this country, but also it changed my life.
Right now I'm studying in Kuban State University, American and Russian Studies department. It is a very unique department in Russia and I think I am very lucky to attend it. So that year in the US wasn't only just helpful for me, but also it gave me an idea what I am going to do in my life, what do I want to pursue. Actually it is kind of funny, but my final destination I hope will be the UN. I am very fond of this organization and I definitely want to work there.
I want to say thanks to all people that work in FSA FLEX program, and I think it is a very important program for students of former Soviet Union countries. Because it brakes some Russian and American stereotypes. I had got a chance to go to Washington DC and I had a very nice conversation with the director of FLEX programs. He told me the whole history of establishing the program.
So I'd like to say that the program has changed my life, and I really appreciate this. It's a pity that we don't have an FSA FLEX center in Krasnodar, just like in Volgograd, otherwise I would be a volunteer there for sure, to show my appreciation.
I want to say that for the United States of America and for the Russian Federation the fact of financing and having such programs is much better and more pleasant, than to put money in to the army, and enlarging the amount of bombs.
We encourage you to write and submit articles to this section. This will help you share your new ideas and thoughts. Other alumni will be reading what you think and this will make them feel different, make them start thinking deeper into the subjects you are raising. There is always something to talk about and this will be great if you can discuss some things that are on your mind or share your experience with other alumni and all the people that will be reading them one day.
Let's speak out and let everybody know what we think!!!