The America inside me
4 AM. The plane landed, and in just a few minutes we were already walking in the Washington Airport. Thousands of people were moving along, with suitcases, happy faces, and sometimes sad expressions. There were forty of us (all wearing long, blue T-shirts), all winners of the FLEX scholarship that offered us an amazing opportunity: one year in America. I mean...one year in America! It may sound strange, but for us, some teenagers coming from Ex-Soviet countries, it was a dream come true. That kind of dream that you wait to happen, and when it does, you get a quite strange feeling: you become aware that it was part of you even before you started dreaming.
The adventure finally started. It all came fast and suddenly: a new school, new classmates, new classes, a sister from Pakistan. All the things that I knew before fell in the shadow of the ones that I discovered with naive, pure curiosity. Peanut butter, American politics, Star Wars, Halloween, Thanksgiving...Day by day, it all became familiar. Taking the yellow bus to school wasn't scary any more, and I was actually enjoying not wearing uniform. I fell in love with Spanish, and taught my classmates Russian during breaks. Their funny, precious accent always cheered me up, no matter what. I learned the team spirit of the American sports, discovered Boston and New York City, and, for the first time, started thinking and dreaming in English. My 17 year old self went through a lot of amazing, unexpected transformations.
4 AM. One year has passed. Forty teenagers (all wearing blue T-Shirts) are hugging each other, with big, innocent smiles on their face. They feel happy, yet very sad for leaving their host families, their friends and all the great memories they shared together. I am one of them. I look around and can't recognize any of the people that I got here with. No, it's not their looks, they do have the same haircut and the same eye color, it's not even their large pants, basketball caps, or appetite for pizza. It's the way they talk, how confident they feel, and the maturity that hides in their voices. I realize how much this experience has shaped our characters, our destinies. It was all worth it: every single second, every single doubt, and every single effort. We fooled time this year; we squeezed a lifetime journey in only ten months.
Always be ready for transformation, no matter how challenging your journey may seem. Leave your comfort zone, and step out, because the times you fail, the times you feel alone or misunderstood-those are the times you grow the most. That's what America taught me, and it still does, one ocean away.