Student Spotlight: Aizhamal Manasova

The Story of the Girl Who’s Traveled 7,000 Miles

By David Yu, Clarion Staff

John F. Kennedy is a diverse high school that hosts a variety of interesting students from around the world.  One such student, Aizhamal Manasova who traveled 7,000 miles (11,500 km) to attend school in Sacramento agreed to share her experiences in the United States with me.

Aizhamal in her native dress

Aizhamal is a foreign exchange student in the eleventh grade and is from the city of Osh in the nation of Kyrgyzstan. Aizhamal is the second youngest daughter of four children, with an older sister and brother and a younger sister. She was an accomplished student, serving as the school president back home in her country and was also selected to be a student ambassador out of thousands of other candidates. Here at Kennedy she maintains an equally impressive resume. “I am in student government, and drama club (performing on stage three times)… In December, I performed on senior showcase, I sang the song in my native language” she told me.

As a student from a country across the world, differences between the education system are expected however they may not be what you would think. One of the largest differences between schools in the United States and Kyrgyzstan is that students attend school in one class from grades one through eleven.  Aizhamal recalled “We’re like a family.”  Sharing a single class wasn’t the only difference, she also noted “Here there are many extra-curricular activities like sports or clubs… we don’t have that.” In Kyrgyzstan Aizhamal dressed according to the mandatory school dress code, however in Kennedy she is allowed, and exercises a much more relaxed dress policy.

Aizhamal, like many people who stay in foreign countries, suffered some difficulties adjusting to life in the United States. Her biggest challenge was communication.   “It’s hard to understand people sometimes because I was taught British English, and everyone here doesn’t speak that way.”

Aizhamal surrounded by her American friends

Other difficulties stem from the larger differences between countries. For example, “In my home country, it is mainly Kyrgyz people,” Aizhamal added. “The United States is a more international country.” In her home country of Kyrgyzstan most people are of the Islamic faith while the religious makeup in the U.S. is much more varied. She also noted other differences in people’s attitudes, the number of holidays and of course food.

If you would like to sample some of Kyrgyzstan’s cuisine you should try Ash or Samsa, which can often be found at traditional Uzbek restaurants (technically not Kyrgyz cuisine but they’re similar).

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