💼 Exchange Student
⏳ Jul 2019 — Aug 2020
📍 Kansas City,
✅ J1 Visa
Disclaimer: Although usually application process starts in fall (September-October), that year for Turkmenistan it was in January.
Disclaimer#2: Flex program is not that popular in Turkmenistan in comparison to other countries, so I didn't know anything about it before, except the fact that you can go to America:)
...Regular evening of the winter break, I'm lying down and scrolling through social media. I saw my peers posting about 1st round of FLEX which is going to happen already the next morning. Me, wishing everyone good luck and not even considering a chance that I also should apply. Then one of my classmates was like: see you in the morning, come to my place we will go there together. I laughed and told her that I'm not going to because it was too competitive and my English is weak. For which she replied: but what do you lose by trying? Then it hit me...NOTHING. On contrary, I was the only one from my school who became a finalist and had a spectacular opportunity that impacted my life and changed it so drastically.
The admissions committee wants to see:
independent and mature enough individuals who are able to live apart from their old life in a completely new environment and represent their countries/cultures.
an active student with leadership skills who can communicate with people (especially the ones who are different from you and your way of thinking), because the diverse groups of people are waiting for you in the USA.
a flexible person who is able to accept new culture/traditions and adapt to any given situation (for example, the unexpected pandemic which happened during my exchange year).
These qualities will be evaluated through essays, interviews, activities with semi-finalists, and the final application form. In order to explain yourself in a coherent manner while speaking and writing, you need to practice structuring your thoughts.
P.S. Your English doesn't have to be perfect, A2/B1 is enough. Mine wasn't great and I left earlier than other finalists from my country for a language program organized by my placement organization.
To be honest, once I arrived I couldn't stop taking pictures of everything and anything😄 because now I was seeing the things which I used to see through screens.
I can say that I was mentally prepared and got familiarized with American culture before leaving so the adaptation process was not hard. I just tried to enjoy my time there since it is limited. I was asking tons of questions to my host family to get closer, also looking for volunteering opportunities to acknowledge my community and make a little change because you know WHY NOT IF I CAN?!
My typical WEEKday started with waking up at 6 am...coffee first...and getting ready for high school. My school wasn't far away, about 10 minutes by yellow (important to mention lol) bus. However, in the first semester, I had marching/ pep band which is 1 hour earlier than usual classes, so my friend from bans picked me up. Classes were till 3 pm, not hard, my favorite part was lunch time😉. Then I usually volunteered for an hour or two in places such as a local library/a pet rescue center/scouts/care center and etc. I could explore my host town while walking or riding a bicycle to these places. After coming home, I and my host family had dinner (P.S. my host dad is the best cook ever!). Then we usually watched some interesting movies/shows/musicals or played all kinds of board games.
Weekends were always full and so much fun. We almost never stayed in. My host family tried to show me more of American culture, especially during the holidays we had everything planned out beforehand with all kinds of activities and of course...food!
After The Program
Looking back at my exchange year I can just say "WOW". Among many gained skills such as language, communication, and flexibility...most importantly FLEX program shaped me into
a more tolerant individual who now listens and accepts other points of view;
a person who now analyzes all types of stereotypes, especially the ones related to gender or racial identities, to be certain that they are just and only stereotypes, not the way we should live.