(Dilafruz from Turkmenistan studying in Wisconsin)
We have so many truly amazing and talented young students at Aspect Foundation, but certain students really stand out from the pack. Today, we are putting the spotlight on a standout student who has been making the most of her exchange year, Dilafruz from Turkmenistan! Dilafruz is studying in Wisconsin on a scholarship sponsored by the US Department of State’s Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program. She lives with the Busse family, and has been filling her year with basketball, concerts, and family fun! We asked Dilafruz several questions about her exchange year so far; see what she had to say below!
Tell us a little bit about your first few days in America!
On the first day, my plane got here at night so I was really tired from the flight. I met my host grandparents, my mom, aunt, and uncle. I was so happy to see them because I was really looking forward to seeing them. Then in the next day, my mom introduced me to my nieces and nephews and they were so nice, cute and friendly. Then my mom took me to Minnesota to meet with her friend. It was only the second day, but I could see a lot of beautiful places and wonderful people. Third day, they took me to the place, where I have never been before, and it was a totally new thing for me. That was the Minnesota State Fair and when I went there, I was shocked because there were lots of people, different costumes, multiple choices of food, music, dance, art shops, hand crafts, and etc. First I couldn’t believe my eyes that I was seeing those things. Honestly, I was a little bit scared too because there was a lot of things; almost too much for me. But I was so lucky, I had a person with me who was supportive, funny, friendly and positive. My mother made feel better by being such a kind person.
Did your host family greet you at the airport?
When I saw my home state for the first time from the plane I saw only flashlights, but when I landed and entered the airport, I saw a lot of hands looking forward to seeing me. I was so excited, I ran to my mom’s huge hug, which was full of love. My mom gave me balloons and a teddy bear with flowers. Then I saw my grandparents, one of my aunts, uncles, two nieces, and lovely coordinator. They greeted me with lots of love, which I could see in their eyes.
How did they make you feel welcomed?
They made me feel like I am their real family member. Each person I met in the airport made a special memory in my mind, which I will never forget. My all good moments and memories started with those people’s love and kindness. After leaving the airport they took me to the restaurant, and I tried my first cheese curds there. At Christmas time, my host mom’s family has a tradition where they hang name ornaments on the wall around their living room. This year, they had an ornament made for me and I got to hang it on the wall. I was now a permanent member of the family.
How did you feel when you first saw your host family?
I was so excited.
(Dilafruz greeted by her host family at the airport)
Have you played any sports at school this year?
I played basketball in my school.
Did you play basketball back home in Turkmenistan?
I did play basketball at home for five months, but I didn’t have enough experience with basketball. I fell in love with basketball when I was in third grade, but I didn’t have a chance to play it. I always wanted to learn real basketball moves.
What position do you play for your school?
I play wing.
What has been your favorite part of playing basketball this year?
When I first joined the team, I thought playing basketball and learning were the best parts. But I learned that I was wrong. The best part of playing basketball is being a part of the team and supporting and helping each other to be a better player. I loved basketball with my basketball family.
(Dilafruz with her basketball family)
We saw that you went to a Keith Anderson concert. How did you like it!?
I really enjoyed the concert with my aunt and nephew.
Is Keith Anderson one of your favorite musicians or is he someone new to you?
Honestly, I had never listened to any of Keith Anderson’s songs before, but when my aunt offered me to go with her to the concert, I agreed because I wanted to see and learn new things. The concert was awesome, I didn’t only learn about one country musician, but I saw a band too. They were incredible and fabulous musicians.
Did you get a chance to meet Keith Anderson backstage?
I did have a chance to meet him backstage. I got an autograph from him on my Keith Anderson T-shirt.
(Dilafruz backstage at the Keith Anderson concert)
Now that you are over halfway through your exchange year, we want to know if you have any advice for students or host families!
When you are an exchange student in the totally different country for the year, you won’t feel how fast your days go through this year. I spent half a year, and I have a lot of things that I want to do with my family. I really appreciate all I had for this half a year. Having such a kind, energetic, positive and super funny family. I think I am the luckiest person in the whole world. I love every single moment which I had spent with my family. They are my second family. I just want to say to all exchange students and host families to use every single moment of their happy one year experience. In my opinion giving love to someone who is totally strange and making unforgettable memories for them, that is the best thing which people can do for someone and themselves.
What advice would you give to a student who is thinking about studying abroad in America?
Studying in America is the most challenging thing you can do for yourself. The reason is you will have a lot of choices which you will have to decide. It is really hard because the choices are all good and worthy. You will have a lot of opportunities to study here, especially because there are lots of scholarships for international students if they want to study in America.
What advice would you give to an exchange student when trying new things?
Never, never be afraid of trying something new unless it so dangerous. Believe me, you will learn a lot of things. You will not learn only new things, you will have lots fun too. You will not waste your time if you try something new. Even making new friends will make your year full of fun memories.
(Dilafruz enjoying her exchange year)
We would like to give you the chance to share any experiences or thoughts you may have with our community!
After my birthday I went to the Green Bay Packers football game with my uncle and his family. That was really exciting for me. We went to the Green Bay stadium, it was really huge with lots of people. I had never seen that many people in one place before, but it was really fun. In that game, the Packers won and it was a really fantastic game. This was one more unforgettable moment and experience for my exchange year.
If you could sum up your exchange in just one word, what would it be?
I would say “spectacular.”
Lastly, is there anything else you would like to say!?
Yes, I would like to thank my host mom. Not only today I am thankful but every day and every moment. I am thankful for everything she does for me. I am deeply grateful for her love for me.
Do you know a standout student that you would like to see featured? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.