My American life

Life in foreign country shifts perspective


submitted photo

Story by Maryam Kulaib, staff writer

At the moment I feel like the happiest person in the world. I’m in America. I’m in an American high school. I live with an American family.

I’m a teenager from Azerbaijan who became an exchange student with the help of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program. When I was in Azerbaijan, my biggest dream was to be in America. Who would have known that someday soon I would fulfill my dream? I can honestly say that people are kinder than I expected, and kinder than what I was told, and kinder than in Azerbaijan.

For me, America is not a different country, but a completely different planet. I did not think that the move would be so difficult for me. Alas, I was wrong. Of course, I knew that I would have difficulties, but I did not think that it would be difficult for me to find new friends and get used to life in America. I only now understand that the differences between Azerbaijan and America are greater than I imagined, and the difference is not only in the traditions and cultures but in everything.

People are so different in America—everyone here has the freedom to express him or herself.”

— Maryam Kulaib

Americans are so strange, not in a bad way, but in a good way. I want to continue learning more and more about these people. I also have to admit, I just adore how people behave as they want, that no one pretends to be someone else. People here have freedom. Although I am new to this country, I am learning to understand its people. Nobody here conceals their thoughts and opinions, and always tries to do the best that they can do, while in Azerbaijan they prefer to remain silent and leave everything as is without trying to change anything, for better or worse.

We in Azerbaijan have almost all the same thoughts and styles. We all had to wear a uniform in school, but the people are also uniform in their daily lives. In Azerbaijan, people spend hours deciding on their outfits, not because they are trying to figure out whether it is suitable for them, but because they need to think over whether others will laugh at them for looking bad. But here everyone wears what they want to wear.

Every morning I think I’ll see something new throughout the day. At school, I look at everyone, trying to figure out what it is to be an American teenager, because I’m completely different. I’m not at all like you. Every time I say that I am an exchange student, I get asked where I come from, which leads to the same questions about my country and the same answers.

People ask me, “Well, how do you like it here? Do you like being in America?” And I answer, “I’m just in love with America.” I answer like this because it’s the truth, what’s not to like about America?