Exchange student Aishat Kanatova, a sophomore from Kazakhstan, is a linguistically talented student, fluent in five languages, including Russian, German, Kazakh, English, and Turkish. She was awarded a merit-based scholarship to study in the United States for a year out of 6000 applicants, with only 100 students being granted the scholarship. At just 15 years old, she is a true ambassador of her country, representing her nation with grace, poise, and joviality.
When international students arrive in the United States, they often face a new chapter of their lives: exciting and bright but heavy with the weight of reality. Their previous achievements often go unnoticed, and their academic and global literacy status is reduced to that of a regular American student. To thrive in a foreign country, they must learn to speak up, assert themselves, and share their culture with others.
“I did many things to get here,” Kanatova said. “Now I’m trying to manage this new form of reality.”
Despite her age, Kanatova has accomplished much more than the vast majority of students to sit in a public high school chair.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity,” she shares. “But this wasn’t pure luck; I tried very hard, and the process was extensive.”
In Texas, a foreign land to her, Kanatova learned to be independent, taking care of herself without the presence of her family. She learned to survive in a foreign country, a feat that many adults also find challenging.
“You must trust yourself and understand that the only person you can depend on is yourself,” she said. “It’s crucial to take responsibility for your actions and belongings.”
Her mature perspective and independent personality have been further strengthened by the adversities she has faced.
Although she misses her home country, Kanatova is grateful for the opportunity to experience life in a foreign land. She believes that “being an exchange student is a unique and challenging experience that teaches one how to be homesick for two different homes.” Aishat is currently staying with a host family she loves very much; now, she feels she has to say two goodbyes: to her family back in Kazakhstan and her new, temporary family, but a family nonetheless.
When asked the million-dollar question, which country do you prefer? Aishat demonstrated a profound point of view.
“Everywhere is beautiful; I don’t have a preference,” Kanatova said. “But my goal is to share my culture and learn about others.”
Kanatova’s scholarship program aims to promote friendly international relationships between Kazakhstan and other countries. Her participation in the program has allowed her to represent her country, learn about different cultures, and build relationships with people from around the world.