Anastasia moved to the United States when she was only 15 years old. Then she practically did not speak English and was sure that in her new country her life would be like a Disney movie about teenagers. Did her expectations come true, the girl told in her note for Lenta.ru report.
A tempting offer
I never had plans to move to the United States, I did not even dream about it. I always thought that I would finish school, get a certificate, go to Moscow State University and live somewhere in the center of Moscow. That was my plan, and it never mentioned moving overseas - it seemed to me something unattainable.
At the end of the ninth grade, when I was preparing for the OGE, my parents returned from the dacha and brought the son of our family's friends home. On the way, he told them how he had lived in the USA for a year and how much he liked it there. Upon returning home, my impressionable parents said they wanted to give me the opportunity to study in the USA.
I was still just a child then, I was 15 years old, so this idea scared me, and I immediately rejected it. What is America?
In Moscow - all my friends, I have never moved in my life, I have never changed school, and besides, I don’t know the language at all. At that time, in this subject I had a weak three at school, the level of language was almost at zero.
I thought about the proposal of my parents for a long time, I could not make this decision myself and decided to consult with my best friend. She, without a second's doubt, told me that such a chance falls only once in a lifetime, and I should use it.
Expectations and Reality
I had a clear plan in my head: I will leave for the USA for a year, graduate from the tenth grade there, return to Russia, pass the USE, then graduate from the twelfth grade in the United States, I will come back home and go to Moscow State University.
Mom and I spent a lot of time before we found a suitable school in the USA. After submitting the documents, I was sent an invitation to study for a student visa. Ahead was the interview at the US Embassy, which I was very afraid of, since I practically did not know the language. However, everything went well, and I received a long-awaited visa. I had two months left before departure. Now everything has become real. I was terrified.
Before that, I flew to the United States twice already. I always idealized this country because I came there as a tourist and did not encounter real life. I saw palm trees, ideal movie shops, represented the famous school lockers, I thought that there were no uniforms in American schools.
I seriously imagined that after moving my life would turn into a romantic comedy: I will fall in love with a handsome boy, I will dress up cool, and everything will be like in Disney movies about teenagers. However, the reality was completely different.
I was 15, I flew to a country where I did not know anyone, and even almost did not speak English. I entered a small private boarding school and in a conversation with classmates I could only say my name, say that I am from Russia, and ask where the toilet is, so I chattered in the hope that no one would notice my grammatical errors in this verbal flow .
In the first week of my stay in the USA, I experienced a real cultural shock. For the first time I was so far from my usual life. At first I didn’t even eat anything, I absolutely didn’t like the local food: everything is very fatty, carbohydrate, unnatural. I ate only apples and vegetable salads and lost a lot of weight.
I was constantly looked at in the corridors of the school, against the background of my peers, I stood out by her appearance, high growth and lean physique. Everybody avoided me, so at first it was difficult for me to make at least some acquaintances. However, soon people became more and more interested in me, I was a kind of exotic for them.
Putin and vodka
Everyone was interested to know about Russia. Would you know how many Americans have different stereotypes about us! Some seriously believe that we have bears walking in the streets, while others are sure that we drink vodka for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and that we are all insanely angry and gloomy. They think that we are all personally acquainted with Putin. In general, vodka and Putin are the two most interesting topics for them. Unusual to me also seemed to be questions about whether I like potatoes.
People here are really very interested to hear about Russia first hand, local media rarely see materials about life in our country.
The mentality of Russians and Americans is very different. This caused a lot of difficulties. What seemed familiar to me was strange and unacceptable to my friends. Even four years later, I still encounter this, although during this time I learned a lot and changed many habits.
The first thing that immediately catches your eye: people here have a completely different vision of friendship. Even if the Americans you meet here smile at you and seem friendly and sociable, this does not mean at all that they want to communicate with you and maintain any kind of connections. This is still strange for me, because I have been talking with my Russian friends for many years, whom I met in the first grade.
Here your circle of friends is constantly changing, you do not have best friends. When you graduate from school and go to university, all old school acquaintances and contacts break off, and you are forced to look for a new circle of friends. There are many Americans who make true friends only after graduation. Agree, in Russia everything is different.
Self-sufficiency and fashion
Another fundamental difference between the two countries is that in the USA, absolutely all teenagers work: in fast foods, in cinemas, in cleaning services. This allows them to fully support themselves. Many save their money, at the age of 18 they leave their parental home and begin an independent life.
For four years I have not been able to experience this myself, since I have a student visa, and I can’t legally work in the States. In addition, all teenagers drive a car. On their 16th birthday, parents give cars to many, and this is considered the norm.
Many believe that Americans do not take off their street shoes at home. This is partly true, but the vast majority of local residents, I would even say 99,9 percent, still leave shoes at the doorstep. Another stereotype: Americans absolutely do not care what they dress and how they look. Based on my experience, I can say that there really is such a feature.
People here are more likely to relate to their appearance: they go in training, in huge T-shirts, some kind of leggings. Roughly speaking, they walk around the city the way they dress in the country in Russia.
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With medicine in the United States, the situation is complicated. There is nowhere without insurance, all services are paid, but due to this, the level of services is very high. Once, in my first year, my friend and I shot a video for TikTok, I tripped and hit my head on concrete. We urgently went to the hospital, I was admitted, everything was in order, my insurance covered expenses, however, for some unknown reason, they still ask me to pay $ 500 for an appointment.
Another problem is that here, without a doctor’s prescription, it’s almost impossible to buy anything at a pharmacy. Is that a cure for the common cold.
I do not look far into the future. Of course, I have plans and dreams, but not ten years in advance. Now I study business marketing at the university, and I really like this program. After graduation, I plan to find a job in the field of fashion marketing. I believe that in the United States this industry is much more developed than in Russia, and it is in this country that I can build the career that I want. I love the United States and am grateful to fate for the development opportunities that open here before me.
I really miss Russia, I fly home every New Year, during the Christmas holidays and in the summer. Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have to postpone the summer trip to my homeland. For me it is very unusual and sad.
Over the past four years, I realized that very good people surround me in life. I was lucky to find my people in both countries. Through thousands of kilometers and time zones, I keep in touch with my Russian friends and relatives. We are still together and overcome all difficulties together. But for the sake of my American friends, I am ready to fly across the country. While I do not know what will happen next, but distance and time have shown me that my people will always be with me and in my heart.
Anastasia Kara's original column published on the portal Lenta.ru report.
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