Only about one in four Americans can hold a conversation in a second language, according to a poll on www.gallup.com. This is not the case with Asem Aytmukhamet, who speaks Kazakh, Russian, and some Spanish and German, in addition to English. Then again, Asem (pronounced ah-syem) is not from America. On August 7th of this year, Asem flew to the United States from her hometown Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. Now, she will reside in Woodland Park, Colorado for the duration of the school year, attending Woodland Park High School as a senior.
Pavlodar is about four times the size of Denver, and close to half of Denver’s population. Back home, Asem often spent her time with friends and family, and also engaged in swimming and dance. In Kazakhstan, the school system is slightly different than here in the US. There, everyone has the same subjects, but the schedule changes each day. “Here, I get to choose what I study,” says Asem. School was more difficult and time consuming in Kazakhstan, whereas here in America, Asem has more free time. When asked what her favorite part of the US is, Asem replied, “I like the people here, they are very nice and friendly to me, always ready to help.” Of course, America is not perfect. Asem misses some of Kazakhstan’s national meals, which take too much time for her to prepare here in Woodland Park.
Asem has high hopes for her future, and coming to America as an exchange student is one of the first steps to attaining those goals. “In the future, I want to go professional with international relationships, and study abroad, maybe in Europe,” she explains. This ambition derives partly from Asem’s love of travel.
That is not all that drove Asem’s expedition to America. By putting herself in this exchange student situation, Asem aspired to become stronger and more mature. To get here, Asem wrote a letter about herself, and she was chosen by her host family, having no control over where in the US she would end up. Asem not only embraced this ambiguity pertaining to where she would live for a whole year, but also chose to survive the social and lingual differences between Kazakhstan and America. That takes a lot of bravery.