18 марта 2010 | English page | Просмотров: 8,280

How I was discovering America

America…Everyone who lives in Russia has his own idea of it. To a large extent people’s attitude has been formed by mass media. When our parents were teenagers, they were impressed that America was the country of decaying capitalism and of consumers’ attitude to life, the country where the major value was money. Nowadays they say the same things, too. Although, I think it applies to Russia equally…

Today we are given a wonderful chance to learn about America from the mouth of a person who has lived in an American family for a year.My interlocutress is Alexandra Blagina, a student of the 11th grade of school № 1 (the town of Alexandrov).

— How did you find yourself in America?
— I went to America within the bounds of the AFS program (it is the international Fund which unites 56 countries of the world and is in charge of organizing international, intercultural exchanges). I got to know about the program from Elena Ivanovna Kulikova, an English teacher of our school. I was interviewed for the purpose of checking my mental state. They wanted to know if I would be able to adapt myself quickly and painlessly in a foreign country and what is more to live there for a whole year. Certainly the knowledge of English was of major priority.

— Tell us about the family you lived with.
— The family consists of 3 people: a mother, a father and a son. The mother is 40, she is an office worker. The father is 55, he works at the post-office. Their son is 19, he is a student of the 12th grade. They are representatives of the average American class. They live in Pennsylvania State near the city of Philadelphia.

— What was your daily routine on week-days and how did you spend your weekends?
— 5.40 a.m. — getting up.
6.20 a.m. — taking a school bus. By the way, sometimes my friends gave me a lift to school, in America the driving licence is given from the age of 16.
7.15 a.m. — lessons begin.
Discipline is very strict. After being late for 2 times, a student is given a special card and his parents are sent for to school. Parents prefer to avoid such problems since it can lead to the loss of their earnings.

Later there is a short information meeting where you can learn about plans for the current day and a compulsory ritual of patriotism: we stood in front of the American flag, put our hands on our hearts and the flag was risen to the strains of the National Anthem. There are usually not more than 10 lessons a day, 5 minutes breaks. Lunch break lasts for 30 minutes. The lesson are usually over at about 3 p.m. Every teenager has his extra-curriculum activities or work. I was in a school team of runners, I took part in competitions, trainings were held every week-day.
Extra-curriculum activities were over at 5 p.m. Then I went to the father’s work and together we went home by car.

On week-days you have no free time but on weekends my friends and I went to play bowling, to restaurants, to the cinema. In America teenagers are fond of cinema.

— Is there any difference between Russian and American school?
— Enormous. It seems to me, that American school is more interesting. Everything is done there to help the student to realize what he will need in his life. Students study neither for the sake of good marks, nor for their parents but because the results of their studies influence directly the size of their scholarship (it is paid at school now) and entering the college. There is no free of charge education in America.

In the list of priorities for an American after creating the family and building a house, there is an opportunity of getting education for his child in the college and it’s very expensive.

— Did you make friends with anybody in America?
— Yes, I did. But at first, when I had just arrived, the students poked their fingers at me and said: «There, there she is, she is Russian». For nobody knew what kind of a person I am. As for me, I also needed some time to learn their humour, their way of behaving. During the first six months we were just friends and went to play bowling together, later we went on a visit to each other, stayed the night.

— What were the most outstanding events of your life in America?
— Every day was an outstanding event for me. Among those which have stuck in my memory in a special way, I would like to mention Christmas: an awfully beautiful decoration of the city and the house, the whole family going for a trip to Niagara Falls and to California. In California we rented a cabriolet and made a short trip to Las Vegas. Staying the night with my friends, parties, games, school activities have stuck in my memory, too. One of the latter was devoted to collecting money for the fund which helps children who are ill with heart disease. We were to dance from 7 p.m. till 7a.m., there were different games in the intervals.

On my birthday the parents and my friends prepared a real surprise for me. Everyone pretended that he or she was busy on that day: some people worked, others studied. But in the evening when I came back home, about 25 people sprung out in front of me with congratulations. The parents organized a grandiose party, ordered a big cake.

— What did you definitely dislike about America and why?
— I can’t say that it didn’ appeal to me at all, but nevertheless, I’ll mention it- people are very busy. You don’t have time for your private life. The majority of teenagers in America start working at the age of 14. But if they entertain themselves, it is really cool!

— Do American students take part in out-of-school life of the community?
— Certainly, they do. In American school they’ve got all facilities for this purpose. Starting with the diving team and up to the homeless animals’ rescue team. Somebody chooses a fan club of school rugby team, somebody joins the group against race genocide.

— From movies and newspapers we know that American teenagers strive for financial independence from their parents. Why?
— Would not say that they strive for it. Their parents incite them, train them to self- dependence, ability to earn and spend money, to know how to use their money competently. I worked as a nurse myself (they paid me 30$ for three hours work). Teenagers in America can find a job easily. You can work as a waiter, a worker of the supermarket, a promoter, a life-saver in a water pool. There are a lot of vacancies.

— What is the main difference between Russian and American teenagers?
— The ability to plan one’s time, the desire to take part in the life of the community, purposefulness.

— Would you like to live in America?
— I would not be able to live there alone, without my parents. I’d like to get my education there but it’s very expensive.

Well, it’s unreasonable to doubt the benefit of cultural exchanges. In any case both the countries and the peoples win. The more truthful information we have got, the less myths and terrifying stories we will be suggested. As a result, we will be closer and more intelligible to each other.

Every nation has got something to be proud of and the best of it can be and should be adopted for the welfare of your homeland.

Julia SAVINA.
Translater: Ksenya Zueva.

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