By Anna Epishkina

Monmouth Academy

My name is Anna Epishkina and I’m an exchange student from Russia. I’m writing this article because I want to share my experience in the U.S. with everybody. I truly had a great year. My host family; Mike, Bonnie and Jesse Gray are amazing people. They were my family for 9 months and they shared the joy and sadness with me. It is very hard to be a part of the new family; many kids from my program ORAP (Open Russia Ambassadors Program) had problems with their host families. At first it was hard for me too; we didn’t know each other well and we needed time to get used to changes in our lives. But after 2 or 3 months everything was much easier.

My host family took my “sister” Jesse and me to Disney World in Florida and that trip made us very close. At first, I couldn’t believe that I was there… We had so much fun! Now, I know that I’m going to miss them a lot and I want to have this opportunity to say that I love them! They are the BEST Host Family ever!

I attended Monmouth Academy as an 11th grader. There are almost 300 students here and compared to my school in Russia which includes almost 2000 kids, that wasn’t a lot. And that helped me, too’ because everybody knows each other and I easily found friends. Teachers are great! They helped me through the year and I could easily come and talk to them when I had questions or problems. Without them I would be lost. Everybody, teachers and students, made this year one of the best in my life. They were understanding and I felt very comfortable at school. Many students from my program said that students teased them and weren’t nice to them, I didn’t experience anything like that. I also want to take this opportunity to say that I’m thankful for every day that I spend at school, I love you guys and I will never forget you.

During the year I volunteered at Monmouth Middle School in 4th grade. I helped the teacher, Mrs. Armstrong, and I taught Russian. Now kids can read a little bit and they know a lot about Russia. They are great kids and I had fun volunteering in their class. I did many after school activities this year, In Russia we don’t have school sport teams and other activities-kids usually go to private clubs and schools. So, it was a big deal for me to join Bowling team. Drama club. Tennis team. Prom committee and more. By doing all these activities, I found friends from other schools and I had lots of fun! When people ask me: What is the biggest difference between the U.S. and Russia? I think that it is the right to drive. In Russia, we are allowed to drive at 18 years old and in the U.S. it is 16 years old. Also, you can find many young people driving their own vehicles here, but in Russia many families do not have cars and it is a big deal when you see a young person (like 20 years old) driving his/her own vehicle.

Sometimes, people ask me: What was the most shocking thing you experienced? I can’t answer this question because I didn’t experience anything bad in the U.S., I love it here. When I say that to people they usually ask me: Do you want to spend the rest of your life in here? The answer is “NO” because I love Russia and I miss it a lot. I miss my family and friends,,. Many students in my program said that they cried because they missed home, but I didn’t. Every day was an adventure to me, every day I woke up with the feeling of excitement! Of course, I had times when I was sitting in my room and listening to music while looking at the pictures of my family and friends, but that wasn’t bad… I think that Yuliya (the other exchange student from Russia in my school) helped me a lot. We always could talk to each other and she always would understand me, It is much easier when you have somebody near who can share your experience,..

This year was one of the best in my life. I came here with a couple of purposes: to get to know the U.S. as a country and as a culture with its people; to find new friends and to improve my English. Now, I can say for sure, I did and experienced everything!!! The stereotypes are broken: I don’t think that American food is only Fast Food and that American people are always lying in their couches and watching their TVs. “NOW, the American people who got to know me, know that Russia is not a huge piece of ice with bears on the streets and that the only thing that Russians do is drink Vodka. That was the purpose of the program I participated in. I will take a part of the U.S. culture and bring it to Russia and I hope that American people will take a part of my country’s culture as well.

Again, I want to thank everybody, who made this year unbelievably great’!’ I will never forget you.,,

Anna Epishkina

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