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ASSE Exchange Students in the News
Recently, students on a scholarship-based high school exchange program met with Long Tran, a Peachtree Corners resident, business owner and Georgia House Representative of District 80. The four students come from former Soviet-controlled communist countries, ranging from The Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Serbia, and were thrilled to learn from Tran. Tran, originally from Columbus.
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Vernonia's Voice Interview with ASSE students
Please enjoy this article published by Vernonia's Voice in the fall of 2022, after their new group of exchange students had arrived. The small community believes that welcoming exchange students from different countries is not just an amazing experience for the students and their host families, but also for all the people in the community, who are lucky to get to know them.
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Proud of our Exchange Students
From Italy to the USA: from High School to University, to Valedictorian
ASSE congratulates Irene Palermo on her accomplishments and thanks Erin and Allan Kalbarczyk for opening up their home in Apex, NC to Irene for the 2017/2018 school year.
Hosting Stories (4 of 8)
Hiyori always delights in everyday discoveries. She says that two of the most fun & amazing things that she has discovered already in America is the fact that she can see SO many stars in the night sky and she loves the fact that her American family has a close relationship with each other. She has been warmly included as part of the family.
One of the biggest surprises about her American school is that she has to move from class to class and only has 3 minutes to make the change! She also said that having homework every day is a difference from her school in Japan.
She loves having a study hall class in America! Hiyori is also on her dance team at school. She enjoys practicing hiphop, jazz, kick and says they have a good time at competitions. Hiyori says that she likes Taco John which she hadn't experienced before coming to America. She also loves having other exchange students in her area and likes activities with her ASSE Area Representative Dee Madche.
Hiyori's Host Family's Perspective
by Arlen Kurtti, host dad for Hiyori Suziki, ASSE Exchange Student from Japan
From the time that Hiyori arrived to us, she has been amazed how open the country is and how large things are. She comes from a city in northern Japan of 1.9 million people.
When she arrived and saw how large the farm and house were, she literally squealed with delight.
She is a very polite young lady, is charming to talk with and it is fun to introduce new things to her. Shortly after her arrival the kids decided to have a bonfire, with smores and hot dogs. The next day visiting she said it was her first bonfire, and she was amazed how bright the stars were in the country at night.
Recently, sunflowers were being harvested next to our land, and she had a ride in the combine. I expected her to ride one or two rounds but she was enjoying the experience so much that she went 7 or 8 rounds.
Hiyori had never been close to a horse before so we took her to meet a friend's horses. She fed them carrots and petted them for the first time. She enjoys our dogs and has learned the names of all 7 of our barn cats. She also finds our 3 goats and the cattle to be interesting.
I caught 2 salmon fishing last Sunday and Hiyori very much enjoyed that. She likes fish and shrimp and is cooking with my wife Sheri. They share recipes and ideas. She also enjoys when I grill outside and seems to enjoy our home cooked western style meals, as well as pizza and Subway. Hiyori also enjoys shopping and wearing a variety of clothes, because back in Japan she has to wear a uniform to school.
Hosting Stories (5 of 8)
Making a Big Step Forward
Fatima Ouadif did not imagine the doors that could open when she was selected as a 2009-10 Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) scholarship program finalist coming from Morocco to spend a school year in Brunswick, Maine.
While staying with the Pease Family in Maine, as her host sister explored potential colleges for her postsecondary education, Fatima took an active interest and began her own research. After spending 10 months in beautiful Maine, attending the local high school and making lifelong family and friends, Fatima returned home to finish two more years of high school in Morocco. While back in Morocco, Fatima also used skills she learned during her time in the USA to volunteer at retirement homes and children hospitals.
"Before I came to the USA, I never imagined that I might go to college here as well", Fatima says. She describes herself as being very shy before coming to the United States and not sure how to interact with others. Participating in the U.S. Department of State sponsored YES scholarship program she overcome her shyness and learned valuable communication skills. This past summer, Fatima was accepted for a scholarship to a 4 year program at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where she will be studying in the field of International Relations. Her dream is to work as a diplomat or ambassador."In Morocco, the American educational system is highly regarded", Fatima says. And even though she admitted to be somewhat nervous about the new challenge, Fatima is looking forward to learning many new skills in the opportunities and experiences ahead of her. She is thankful for great American relationships, especially the family of ASSE Area Representative Jacqueline Medeiros, who will host Fatima during vacations and holidays from college.
ASSE congratulates Fatima on the great achievement and wishes her all the best for the new adventure lying ahead of her!
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The Dream Suddenly Became Real!!
The idea of me, Omar Yehia, coming here was the most outrageous, exciting thing that has ever happened to me! You wouldn't exactly think that your dream of coming to America is going to suddenly turn real.
I mean for a kid living in a tiny country on the Mediterranean, the U.S. is kind of... hmm let's just say far away. There I was at the Detroit airport all alone, for the first time ever, looking for the people that I am going to live with for a year! As I sat down, there was my host mom, Trish Tomayko, with a welcome sign running towards me. All of a sudden it hit me, that lady is going to be my mom for a year. It all seemed eerie to think that I was on my own now.
The people that I used to see every day, were not here. As we drove home, I got the chance to talk to the family and they all seemed excited! I mean welcoming a stranger that came all the way from another continent wasn't exactly an everyday deal, but they made me feel welcomed and 'broke the ice' as they say from the beginning. I was thankful for that! All was well as I sat down, got to talk to the family, and learned about their lifestyle, view of me, my country, and my religion. I felt so happy that I got the chance to introduce my country to them. I never before felt the sudden urge to talk about Lebanon like I did then! I felt so proud of it, and wanted to tell everyone about it.
The first day of school was kind of confusing. My school had 1,500 student and I had to change classes every hour! That was new because we don't really have all of that back home. No lockers, no changing classes, and not that many students! But one thing I knew for sure, I had to stay positive no matter what! A month passed, and amongst it, I met great people who were so eager to know about me and my country and I met amazing teachers that inspire me all year round. You have so many different things that you can do, so many different people that come together for the purpose of learning, and so many opportunities that if you work hard it will change your life forever. As I completed my first month of life in the U.S., I came to a conclusion that we are all the same; we just get scared sometimes to make the first move and explore what this big world has to offer. For me life in the U.S. is getting better day by day!"
Omar's Host Dad's Perspective
by Mike Tomayko, host dad for Omar Yehia, ASSE YES Exchange Student (Lebanon)
Hello, my name is Mike Tomayko, and I am Omar's new dad for 10 months. I was supportive but not as excited to get an exchange student as the rest of the family was. I was nervous and scared about what type of kid we would get. Then I thought about it from his perspective, leaving his home and family, he must also be really scared and nervous. When we met him at the airport I realized he is just a normal kid. He really has a lot of courage to go on this great adventure. Omar has been here just over one month and he seems to be doing great. The homecoming football game and dance are coming up and he is looking forward to going. He is very outgoing, not shy at all, really likes to do a lot with us, not hang out in his room by himself.
Omar has taught us a lot about his culture and religion. He has cooked us some Lebanese meals and deserts, (knefeh). His parents must be very proud of him and also his parents must have a lot of courage to let him go on this journey.
Our area ASSE Area Representative has been great. She has been very helpful through the whole process.
Omar's Host Mom's Perspective
by Trish Tomayko, host mom for Omar Yehia, ASSE YES Exchange Student (Lebanon)
Hi, my name is Trish Tomayko and I am the host mom to Omar. He is a wonderful, fun, open, mature, caring, talkative, proud young man. My first impression of Omar was: big really big like over 6 foot big boned gentle giant! As soon as I met him, he gave me a bear hug. That broke the ice pretty early on. That first day we all took off work and school to pick him up from the airport. We asked him if he wanted to see some sights, go to eat somewhere. And all he wanted to do was come home and see where he would be spending the next 10 months. That day we all sat in the family room for at least 4 hours just getting to know each other. He shared with us all about Lebanon, his family and friends, his school, the climate and all the usual curiosities. It was a great day for of all of us!!! Since that first day it has pretty much been the same, we still ask each other a lot of questions and want to learn more and more from each other. Omar loves to talk and so do I. We have a lot of fun!!
ASSE says a BIG thank you to the Tomayko family and ASSE Area Representative Amy Borawski for helping make Omar's dreams come true!
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My year in Detroit Lakes was indescribable
Three years ago Dilrabo Sultanmuratova could just dream about coming to America and study here, but now she’s almost done with her exchange year and is reflecting on the past 10 months.
I had a dream to win a scholarship and get the opportunity to live in the U.S.A. I’m from a small town in Kazakhstan. No one got that scholarship from my town before and that’s why no one believed I can do it. But I made it!
And now I can proudly say that I’m the first high school student
from my town to win the
prestigious Scholarship of the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) Program. Dreams do come
true, no matter how big they are.
I got a cool blue FLEX T-shirt and came to Minnesota. I came with no expectations, simply because I didn’t know what to expect; I just knew my experience would be a little bit different, unique.
I was so excited to see my host family and get to know them. I’m sure they were too. I call my host parents “mom” and “dad,” and you know, it does make us feel as a family. My host parents are Angie and Hondo Lehmann. They are so nice, and they welcomed me into their home. I’m very lucky to have such an awesome host family. They consider me like their real daughter; we have a very good relationship with each other. We have so many good memories together.
I loved exploring nature with them. Our first family trip was going to Duluth. I also went biking to Itasca and went hunting with my host dad. They brought me to so many different restaurants, exploring new cuisine each time. We had Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and Easter together. They gave me way more than I expected.
It’s so nice of them, taking someone you don’t even know into your home. They are the best family any exchange student could ever ask for. I’m absolutely grateful for everything they have done for me.
Living away from home, on the other side of the world, has impacted me in ways that will stick with me for life. Since being in Minnesota, I have come out of my shell. I’ve become more independent and confident in myself and the choices I make. My experience made me a more flexible person but it also developed strength in me and showed me the circumstances when I just have to be brave.
Being here and experiencing a different culture, a different lifestyle and a different language has changed my perception of life. I am so aware of the world now, and when I get back, I can’t wait to pass on all of my new knowledge.
I feel such a great feeling of appreciation to everybody who was helping me through the whole year. America is a wonderful country. Its diversity is just incredible, and all people are tolerant.
During my experience, I have had my share of laughs and tears, achievements and disappointments. But in looking back on all these months, I can say today that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My exchange year was fantastic. There are no words that could ever describe the time I had here. I will truly miss everyone, especially my host family. I shouldn’t cry it is ending, I should be happy it happened.
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Muslim Teen helps Vet give up Prejudice (Aired on WTHITV on May 13, 2013)
A military man's beliefs have been changed for the better, thanks to a new addition to his family through hosting a foreign exchange student. Brian Miller served in the army in the 1980s in various locations. He's a military vet, with a pride for his country, you'd be hard pressed to match. His son fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Miller said his son had negative experiences
while in those areas. He admits those experiences,
in addition to the events of 9/11, gave him a skewed view of a big part of the Middle Eastern culture.
"I wouldn't say hate or racist, I would say dislike of the Muslim community," Miller said.
However, his beliefs would be turned upside down once his finance, Dana Petersen Furrey, announced the family would be getting a little bigger. She works for the ASSE Student Exchange Program and was looking for homes for students from the YES Scholarship Program.
That's where we met Brian's newest son, Ali Naqvi. Properly, his name is Syed Muhammad Ali Naqvi. His hometown is Karachi, Pakistan. His religion is Shiite Muslim.
The YES Scholarship Program was started by Richard Lugar and Ted Kennedy after
9/11. Its goal is to bridge the gap between Middle Eastern countries with
Muslim cultures and the U.S. That bridge made its way to Shirkieville, IN where
"Once we got Ali in the home, I got to learn a lot and he enlightened me to quite a few things," Miller said. After that, they became a family that is virtually inseparable. "I tried to relieve some misconceptions and it was pretty good. They welcomed me into their home," Naqvi said.
Miller said his perspective on the Muslim culture has completely changed thanks to Naqvi.
Watch the video that was aired on WTHITV on May 13 2013.