Students Find U.S. Isn’t That Far From Home

Published on, by Jen Thomas – December 22, 2007.

… Changing the World:

While in many ways just normal teenagers who struggle with homework, essays and exams, get homesick and have fun with their friends, these kids are special. When they go home at the end of their journey, they plan to make a difference.

For Svitlana, that means developing a scholarship program that rewards what she called “talented people” in her country.

“It would be for students who want to do something but are not able to pay for it, for people who have ambition and want to improve themselves,” she said. “Really, life here changed us and I want to study more and see more and help talented people do that, too.”

AbdulSamad is determined to take his newfound love of community service to his home and encourage his family and friends to learn the joy of helping others.

“Everyone has this idea of how we can be helpful in this world. When I get home, I will share my opinion, the experiences I have from here. We’re coming back to lead our countries and they are looking to us. It’s a big responsibility,” he said.

Maryam wants to fight for women’s rights when she returns to her country, first asking her uncles to support education for women.

“We are changed here and hopefully, we can change things in Afghanistan, especially for women who don’t have much rights. I want men and women to have equal rights and the big problem is that we don’t allow girls to go to college. If they don’t get educated, who will run the country? Men alone cannot build a country,” she said.

AbdulSamad hopes his time in the U.S. will influence others to embrace a new philosophy, one that emphasizes a common humanity.

“The big idea that I’m taking back to Afghanistan with me is that it does not matter if we are black, white, red or any other color; it’s only appearance. On the inside, we are all the same,” AbdulSamad said.

“We all have such aim. We are not lazy,” said Kohut. “We really want to change the world.”

Kohut, Maryam and AbdulSamad are just three of 17 students studying in Berkshire County and Southern Vermont, as far south as Great Barrington and as far north as Arlington. The students come from eight different countries: Afghanistan, Ukraine, India, Armenia, Russia, Ghana, Kazakhstan and Turkey. Five students are located in Berkshire County at Drury High School in North Adams, at Lenox High School, at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington and at Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown.

AbdulSamad and Maryam’s last names have been omitted to protect their privacy. (full text).

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