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I'm an American student

13 июля 2009 г., Anna Novoselova, Moscow

On the treeA mind that has been stretchy out by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension.


Sometimes one step that you make in your life can change you forever even though at the beginning you do not completely realize what the hell you are doing. That situation occurred to me when I was 15 years old, a naive, ordinary girl, who had just graduated from English proficiency middle school in the small town in Russia. I was spending my carefree summer days in St. Petersburg when my family suddenly decided to send me off to the shores of the United States of America, particularly to the islands of Hawaii, a place that I thought existed only in fairy tales. Their plan was to send me there for one school semester to live with my relatives, go to the American private school in order to perfect my English skills  and have me see the world. I could not believe in it until the moment when my parents dropped me off at the airport in Moscow, said good bye, having no idea that we would not see each other for almost 4 years.

Class of 2006The beginning...

On the plane I cried, without a particular reason until I cried myself to sleep. I woke up in 12 hours in LA, and saw through the window beautiful Pacific ocean of the color that I thought could only exist in tourism catalogs. I had very mixed feelings: eager to see what's beyond the borders of LAX and little bit uncomfortable to be in the foreign environment. I had gone through the customs without any problems, exited the gate got in the cab that drove me the hotel where I had to stay overnight before my flight to Hawaii. I didn't see much on the ride, could not really understand the cab driver, who was trying to start up a conversation with me. At the hotel I could not sleep it was hard to get on the LA time. So I stayed up, browsed the web and watched CNN...

Best friendsMy flight to Hawaii was carried out by the Aloha airlines, the plain smelled like flowers, flight attendants wore pretty dresses and open smiles , and their hair were decorated with orchids. They served Guava (a famous fruit of the tropics) juice and crackers. The flight duration was 5 hours long and the whole time we were above the ocean. The I saw a chain of island and the pain easily landed on the island of Maua'i, where I had to switch on to the plane headed to the island of Kauai, my final destination. The smell of ocean breeze, fruits and flowers went up to my nostrils when I exited the plane, it felt like there were too much air. I had a lay over on Maua'i for an hour and then I boarded a jet plane that carried me further to the north. The ride was 45 minutes long, after 2 Guava juices we started to land in the Lihue airport. I was totally amazed by the extraordinary beauty and fantastic atmosphere that surrounded that little island. HonoluluThe air here was even cleaner and the ocean played of many different colors.

The party of three people my aunt, her husband and my little cousin Andy met me at the baggage claim, put a beautiful lei (a Hawaiian traditional wreath made from plumerias and orchids) and drove me off to the place where I was to stay with them for 6 months.

After 4 months of my introduction to the life in Hawaii (beaches, surfing, hiking, eating exotic fruits from the tress, taking pictures of pretty much everything that I saw), I had to start school.

Sophomore year

School play the Wizard of OzI remember my first day there as it was yesterday. First, let me tell you that the school that I went to is nothing like those typical American schools that we all observe from the screens of our televisions, while we enjoy Hollywood movies. My school (Kula High and Intermediate School), is private, small (a bit more than 100 students from grades 7-12), island styled. It's situated in the beautiful valley, overlooking and mountains from one side and the ocean on the other. The classes were located in the chain of small buildings. We had a garden, a football field an a performance studio. Let's go back to the first day, when I came to school I was met by the principal, a nice lady who interviewed me on the phone while I was preparing to leave for the US), she escorted me to my first class - Asian History. When I walked in all naive and Russian, the class could not help but to stare at me. At school with JanaEach one of them introduced themselves, although I did not catch their names, the teacher showed me to the spare desk and started lecturing. Frankly speaking I could barely understand what she was saying not because my English was so bad but for the simple reason that all Americans talk very fast and swallow most of the words in their speech. Then we had four more classes: Asian Literature, Spanish, Math and English. After that we had typical American lunch: apples, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and coke. During the lunch time, I already started making friends, people were simply impressed of a fact that I am from Russia. They were asking me if it is very cold there, do bears really walk on the streets and do Russians really drink a lot of vodka and chase it down with red caviar. After lunch we had elective classes that every student has a right to choose. I chose Art, Golf and Study Class and Tennis (an additional hour that teacher can spend with you personally).

College costume partyIn a month or so I was pretty much adapted to the island, my school and surroundings. I started making friends. Going out with them to exciting events, I was invited to birthdays, pajama parties, BBQ, luau (traditional Hawaiian dinner that includes appetizers, salads, and a main dish kailua pork, rolled in banana leaves and baked in the ground), surfing trips etc. My English got so much better, I spoke fluently and I started to receive good grades at school and even got and Honor Roll.

Unfortunately, the semester was almost over and my F-1 said that I had to be back in Russia by the beginning of July. School ended at the end of May, I had two more months to spend with my friends and enjoy Hawaii before I had to say good bye. Suddenly, my relatives decided to keep me there in order for me to finish high school in Hawaii. I was extremely happy to hear their offer and accepted it immediately!!! We started organizing extension for my F-1 and SEVIS so I could legally stay in the US. Prom preparationsIn two months, I was issued a new F-1 that allowed me stay and study at my school until graduation...

Junior year

After the wonderful summer where I got to travel to all of the islands of Hawaii, I had to come back to school to start my junior year. I was already pretty well adapted to the school system, had many friends who helped me whenever I needed assistance, and was loved by all the teachers. However, that year was very hard academically. We had very hard classes and very strict teachers but they all were very helpful and friendly, especially Jason our English teacher, that guy made us read Odyssey in its original version and could still make the class fun. He was always kindly teasing me for being Russian. Oh, Jason... Please, do not believe stories that tell you that Americans are stupid and ignorant, that they do absolutely nothing at school, and that they barely know what is located outside of their “gated community”, it is a myth. If a person wants to learn and get high quality education in order to grow into a strong intellectually person, he will do it no matter where he lives, what language he speaks or whether his school private or public. Well, lets come back to the junior year, we have loads of homework, I made it to the tennis team (its was an achievement), so I had practices almost every day with school coach and my private teacher Coco. At the pub in WhistlerJunior year was the most memorable and very crucial, its time when my friends and I started to organize parties, got our driving licenses, went to prom (a ball at the end of the year), participated in Interact Club (Junior foundation of Rotary International), where we held different social events, did food drives for the poor, and helped foster kids.

Besides all that fun stuff, junior year in American High Schools is the time when the students have to start thinking about applying to colleges (we had a special class, called College Counseling, where we were taught who to chose a right college that will fit you, how to go through the application process etc.), and also have to take their SAT (Scholaristic Achievement Test). A test that consists of two subjects English and Math, lasts 4 hours and completely kills your brain. For those who are thinking to apply to more prestigious universities there is an SAT II, a test on any humanitarian subject that you would like to take. By the end of my junior year I was pretty much decided on where I would like to apply and what I will study. I took SATs and SAT II and scored well enough to apply to some pretty known universities.

Whistler, CanadaThe summer after junior year was really one of the best times in my life. My family took me to see the shores of famous California. We have been to almost every known city (Anaheim - with its famous Disneyland, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Hollywood etc.). We also had a college tour in every town we visited so I can see with my own eyes the school that I would like to apply to...

Senior year

My last year of high school... On the one hand it was very sad to be in the school for a year and know that after that you will be on your own, without precious people and things that surround you here. On the other hand, seniors are the most respected people at school, they get to go on the senior trip to Whistler, Canada, have winter ball and prom, graduation and graduation party. Those events were really something to look forward to. I turned 18 and my friends threw me.

WhistlerOn our first day of school, we were trying on graduation robes, selecting sizes... This year we had very interesting classes one of those was Business Etiquette. I was chosen a Vice President of our Interact Club. I participated in the paddling team (Hawaiian canoe paddling) we almost made it to the States. I will never forget our senior trip to Canada, we ourselves raised the money so we could go all together and snowboard in the mountains of Whistler. Winter Ball was so much fun and finally prom... The year flew by fast, we managed to be done with school, have fun and get into colleges (I was accepted to 5 but chose to go to San Francisco State University). We woke up at our graduation.... I had a graduating class of 15 the most wonderful people in the world. We gave our graduation speeches ( I think mine started as something like “Living on the beautiful island of Kauai, driving to the beach in the tunnel of the mountains, living side by side with the most coolest people ever, could life get better than this...?”) We were handed out our diplomas, threw our graduation caps and were done with school forever. After the ceremony we had a banquet with our parent, relatives and teachers, and as the night fell on the island, we hoped in our cars and headed down to the beach where we set a party tent, tables and music.

PromSummer before college flew by faster than the whole senior year. And here came the day when I finally said good bye to my family, all my friends. On the day of my flight I drove down my favorite beach spot and just sat there looking at the waves hit the shore....Then drove and said good bye to the friends that I was leaving, after that my family drove me to the Lihue Airport and put me on the American Airlines flight headed to the city of San Francisco...

San Francisco

First, let me say that I have never been to SF, it was completely strange and unknown place for me, where I would have to make new friends, get to know all the surroundings, and all of that I would have to do completely on my own. When I arrived I headed directly to the apartment that I was going to be renting with two other girls, one from Malibu and one from Oakland for one academic year. The apartment was unfurnished, so when I met the girl we drove to IKEA, bought furniture and decorated the whole place by ourselves. More of a promThe next day I had my freshman orientation at the University. Our intentional counselor lectured about what courses to take in order to get your BA in four years, how to register correctly and how to not fail. After the orientation I registered for my classes (I was majoring in journalism) and went to the bookstore to get my books. Textbooks at the university cost a lot, you spend about $500 per one semester, good thing though you can sell after that and buy used ones.

I was really busy when classes started, I was taking 19 units per week (19 hours of classes, the average American college student take 12-15 units). After classes, I played tennis, hang out with my roommates, attended numerous crazy college parties, drove to Santa Cruz on the weekends, and explored the possibilities of Frisco, and traveled to other states of the US.


Secrets - my favorite beachOn the Thanksgiving break student usually get a week off, so this is one of those events that each college student expects from the moment he starts his classes. It the time when most of the students get to go home, see their families and eat lots of food. I could not fly to Hawaii, so my roommate invited me to spent Thanksgiving break with her in Malibu. We drove to Malibu, it took us about 8 hours, and we had to all switch driving, so we wont fall asleep. Malibu is a small town, located in th valley between Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Its a famous, gated, glamor place where Hollywood stars own beautiful houses on the shore, shop at the fancy stores and live their happy celebrity lives. My roommates' parents are very nice people, who warmly welcomed me in their house. They cooked nice and tasty Thanksgiving dinner. We spend there a week, eating, resting, and walking around the town. Good times...

The girlsFrisco

When we came back we had one more month of classes left before going on Christmas break. I successfully passed all my exams and was getting ready for my holiday trip to Russia...

Moscow, Russia

I boarded on the plane SF-New York-Moscow. And in 13 hours my Dad met me in Sheremetevo airport. He did not recognize me and could not understand my American accent. I was shocked to be back, everything was so wildly unknown and unfamiliar for me. I spent there a month and was really ready to get back to my home in SF, thinking that I will never come back to Russia again...

At the beachAlmost the end...

I studied at San Francisco for 4 semesters and at the end of my sophomore year I experienced some financial difficulties. It was decided that I have to come back to Russia... So I took an academic break at the university bought a ticket to Russia and left...

The end...

To simply say that it was hard for me to leave America is to say nothing. I was extremely sad, upset, heart broken to leave everything that I had gained there. I became an American girl at heart. There I changed, became a completely new person, diverse and open-minded. America gave me so much and I will never forget it. All the wonderful people whom I met there are my life time dear friends. I was granted a rare opportunity to grow and learn new things.

After I came back to Russia and lived here for a year (a very difficult year), I took a vacation and flew to Hawaii as I could not longer miss it. I had to see my friends and family and everything I left behind. I know that one day I will come back and pick up where I left off!

Anna Novoselova, Moscow

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