exchangeThis year two students from countries far away joined the Tiger Nation. Laura Meszynski, from Germany, and Ivan Petukhov, from Russia, shared their life changing American experiences.

“My favorite thing about America is the diversity. It can be seen in every aspect of America: the people, the places, and in the culture,” said Petukhov.

Culture differs everywhere one goes–from Russia to the United States.

“Americans smile a lot, whether it is a cashier in a store or just a random person on a street. It was kind of awkward at first when everyone smiled at me, but I am now accustomed to it. It is their sign of acknowledgement,” said Petukhov.

And from Germany to America.

“The people in this country act; they are more social and open. Everyone is theirself and has interesting personalities.  They are always friendly, talkative, and approachable,” said Meszynski.

Not only is the culture different but school systems are different, too.

“In Germany, after four years of elementary school, we all get separated. There are three “levels” and our parents decide which “level” we will be placed in. We graduate after 10 years of schooling and can either go into the workforce or get enrolled into a tech school or college. If we choose college, we need to have two extra years of school and take the Abitur test, which is similar to the American ACT or SAT, at the end of our high school career,” said Meszynski.

The Russians have their own way of schooling.

“In the Russian school system, we do not get to choose which classes we can take.  All of our classes are required.  We also cannot wear whatever we want to school.  We have dress codes and we do our studying on Saturdays,” said Petukhov.

However, American school system and the Russian schools have their advantages and disadvantages.

“I don’t know where I like better; here the classes are entertaining which makes learning interesting.  Here, in America, you all have sports and extracurriculars, which are awesome.  But the school in my country has classes that are only for studying and the classes are more challenging, which I enjoy,” said Petukhov.

With so many differences, there must be something that reminds them of home.

“Germany and America both have some of the same fashion styles. We also have stop lights shopping malls,” said Meszynski.

“Russia and America are more similar than some people might think. For example, our countries have similar thoughts and beliefs,” said Petukhov.

While here in America, Petukhov was hosted by the LaBarberas.

“My experience with the host family was amazing! I would like to say thank you to [the] LaBarbera family, host mom Kelly, host dad Patrick, and my host brother Michael. They have been treated me as I’ve always been part of their family. The LaBarberas helped me overcome all the difficulties I’ve faced here and they gave me a lot of advice. We just simply became friends for life, I think. Best host family I couldn’t even wish for! I love them,” said Petukhov.

Meszynski stayed with the Hoffmans.

“My host family, The Hoffmans, are like a second family for me. I love them, even though I’m not actually related to them. I am so glad I have them,” said Meszynski.

During their stay the made ties that will last a lifetime and from their experience in the United States, Meszynski and Petukhov learned many new things.

“I think I have changed a lot while I was here. I learned a lot about myself and about people. I learned that you can make friends anywhere in the world and that people can be very different but they are still people. We are all connected in some way. Also, I learned that anything is possible and you can make it happen if you really want to and work hard for it,” said Meszynski.

“I learned a lot of things about American culture, society, history, numerous life tips, and simply how to live on your own being so far away from parents. In addition to that, I realized how important my parents are and how much they love me,” said Petukhov.

Just as students will miss them they will miss all of the friends and staff they have met here and some of American specialties.

“The things I will miss the most are all the friends I have made here, my host family, sports events, and school dances,” said Meszynski.

“First, I will miss the variety of fast-food because we do not have many places like that in my country.  Next, I will miss my sleep on Saturdays, because we, back there, do study on Saturdays and going to school.  Lastly, I will miss all my friends from here. Thank you to everyone who was nice to me here,” said Petukhov.

Petukhov leaves for home June 19 and Meszynski will depart from America on July 5.