February 10, 2003 - HeraldNet: Kazakhstan exchange student drew inspiration from Peace Corps Volunteers

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: 02 February 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: February 10, 2003 - HeraldNet: Kazakhstan exchange student drew inspiration from Peace Corps Volunteers

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, February 17, 2003 - 1:58 am: Edit Post

Kazakhstan exchange student drew inspiration from Peace Corps Volunteers

Read and comment on this story from HeraldNet on a Kazakhstan exchange student now studying in the United States who drew inspiration from Peace Corps Volunteers in her country at:

From Stanwood, with love*

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From Stanwood, with love

An exchange student from a large city in Kazakhstan is finding small-town life has plenty to offer.

Stanwood High School exchange student Nargis Alzhanova chats online with other exchange students recently.
[Click photo to enlarge]

By Scott Morris
Herald Writer

STANWOOD -- Nargis Alzhanova is living her dream.

Granted, she didn't imagine her dream would include leaving one of the larger cities in her native Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest country, to be plunked into a Future Farmers of America program at Stanwood High School.

But the 16-year-old foreign exchange student is adapting to small-town life just fine. In fact, wedging time into her schedule for an interview is a chore.

Take, for instance, one Thursday at the end of January.

Alzhanova interrupted her normal school day at 11 a.m. to participate in an online chat with a U.S. State Department diplomat, Stephen Hart, along with 99 other Central Asian exchange students all over the United States.

After school, Alzhanova zipped over to drama practice. Then she had chess club. Then at 4 p.m., she was leaving for a trip to Seattle with her host parents, Steve and Clarene Ricarte.

Oh, and in her spare time, she's taking Japanese language classes and participating in the Future Business Leaders of America.

She also started attending services at Warm Beach Free Methodist Church, where the Ricartes are members. She liked it so much, she left her secular upbringing behind.

"I became a Christian," Alzhanova said.

If enthusiasm and sheer energy are any indication, she looks like she's having a blast.

"It has been my dream since childhood to go to America," Alzhanova said. "I don't know why."

She said she drew some inspiration from U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who helped start a soup kitchen in her hometown, Petropavlovsk.

"We don't have a lot of soup kitchens," Alzhanova said, adding with a hint of pride that she was the youngest helper at the kitchen.

She has a flare for languages.

The Soviet Union broke up when she was 5, so Russian is her first language. Her father is Kazakh and her mother is of Tartar origin, so Alzhanova speaks a little Kazakh, too. However, she's more fluent in French than Kazakh, and now her English is almost as good as her Russian despite only having been here since August.

"I just feel like maybe that's what I was supposed to speak," Alzhanova said of English. "I know Steve (her host father0 doesn't believe in this, but I think maybe I was born in North America in a past life."

Alzhanova is one of 1,265 students from the former Soviet Union attending high school this year in the United States as part of the U.S. State Department's Future Leaders Exchange program. The program's goal is to expose Eurasian students to democratic values and institutions. Funding comes from the State Department and the Fulbright Foundation.

Steve Ricarte got involved through his connection with Future Farmers of America, one of FLEX's affiliate organizations. Ricarte is one of four agriculture teachers in the Stanwood-Camano School District.

Despite being a city girl, Alzhanova said she likes Stanwood and her FFA duties.

"We were warned that we were not going to big cities, but I've lived in a village for some time with my grandparents and I liked life in the village," Alzhanova said. "It's so natural, bare feet, go walk in the field."

Clarene Ricarte said she is glad to be a FLEX host.

"This exchange program, to me, is starting to build some of the bridges that were destroyed with the Cold War," Clarene Ricarte said. "We read what our countries are doing instead of interacting people to people."

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@heraldnet.com.
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kazakhstan; Special Interests - Exchange Students



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