Meet Aidana Omar – One of Seldovia’s Exchange Students

| April 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

by Jenny Chissus

Aidana Omar

Aidana Omar

Living in a small town, we immediately notice all the new faces, and this beautiful, smart, cheerful and friendly one, came to us all the way from Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan!  Aidana was placed with Shad and Tiffany Haller, along with another exchange student, Souleymane Sidibi from Mali for the 2013-2014 school year.

Aidana is an exchange student with the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) for Russian and Asian students.  Aidana mentioned that with over 8,000 applicants, only about 700 students were accepted for the program in 2013-2014.

The FLEX Program (Future Leaders Exchange) is funded by Congress under the FREEDOM Support Act and administered by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program’s goal is to provide an opportunity for high school students from Eurasia* to experience life in a democratic society in order to promote democratic values and institutions in Eurasia.

FLEX students live with host families, attend school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. The program places special emphasis on leadership skills and seeks ways for participants to develop these skills during the school year. Upon their return home, students will apply their leadership skills at home and become involved in a well-established FLEX alumni network. Find out more about the FLEX alumni network and program at exchanges.state.gov/youth/programs/flex.html. – taken from the FLEX site

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Seldovia’s Mixed 6 Volleyball Team

Gazette:  Did you have a difficult time getting accepted into this program?
Aidana:  I applied as a Freshman and as a Sophomore, but didn’t make it to the final round of interviews until this year.  It is very competitive.  I am very lucky and honored to be a part of such a great program.

Gazette:  When did you know you were coming to Seldovia, Alaska and that you had been placed in the Haller family?
Aidana:  I was the first one who got placed, I got my placement report on April 27, 2013 and so I Skyped a lot with the family, and I texted with Taylor a lot before I got here.

Gazette:  Did you have any choice about coming to Alaska, or Seldovia?
Aidana:  No, our placements are randomly chosen.  I was selected initially for the Seattle  region – which includes Alaska.   When the area coordinator for Alaska saw my application, she immediately selected me to come to Alaska!

Gazette:  How has your experience been in Seldovia?
Aidana:   I was fascinated by Seldovia’s community support of our school’s sports teams.   Even when we were away, (and all away games are across the bay) they came all the way with us to cheer, even if we lose!  I’ve never seen that kind of community.  That is pretty wonderful.  There is so much support for the students, and it feels like they see every student as their own child.  I will always remember walking at the beach and looking at the sunsets, bonfires at the beach with my friends, with smores and hot dogs and lots of laughter and many, many good memories.       Sometimes, as an exchange student, being in Seldovia is a little isolated.  In Anchorage and the bigger cities, exchange students get together once a month or so, and in Seldovia we can’t do that, it just costs too much to go across on the plane, so I miss that.

HomecomingKingQueen2014

Exchange students in Seldovia, honored as Homecoming King & Queen! Souleymane Sidibe from Mali and Aidana Omar from Kazakhstan.

Gazette:  Perhaps, in a bigger city/school, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity  to be on the varsity volleyball or basketball team or participate in cheerleading, or have the honor of being chosen Homecoming Queen?  Was that a surprise?
Aidana:  I was totally surprised.  We don’t have Homecoming King and Queen but we have Fall Princess, but only 11th grade students can be that,  and there are so many people in my school I don’t think I would get it.  It has been great being a part of the sports teams and a part of this community.

Gazette:  Tell me about your home town, where you come from.
Aidana:  I am from Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan, and my school is a 1-11 grade school, (we only have 11 grades before university level) and there are 2,000 students in our school.   I will go home the 20th of May, and take the exam for the 11th grade, and then take my national test so that I can go to University.  I want to study international business.

Gazette: What has been the best part about coming here?
Aidana:  Definitely my family, the best part of coming here is my family.  I have friends who are struggling with their host families because they don’t treat them like family, and it is very hard when you are away from home.  I’m really glad that my family turned out to be a great family.

Aidana admires her older sister who is 22 and adores her younger brother who is 7, so she fit right in the Haller home, with younger and older siblings!  Living with such a large family has been quite a change from what she’s used to.  A lot more activity and fun, but sometimes a challenge with all the different personalities! There are a lot of things to adjust to when coming to a new country, a different climate, a new language, a new family, new culture, and Aidana stressed that she has really focused on being flexible and adaptable.   One of her mottos is:  “Not better, not worse, just different!”

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Aidana with host parents: Tiffany and Shad Haller

Gazette:  What do you feel is the most important thing about being a successful host family?
Aidana:  Treating the student as a member of the family is the most important thing, if you don’t feel like a family, you just want to go home.

Gazette:  Do you Skype and talk with your family at home?  Do you miss them a lot?
Aidana:  Of course I miss them, but we don’t Skype too much because my mom always cries, so we text a lot and that works better.

Gazette:  How do you like America?  Is it what you thought it would be like?
Aidana:  I like the American lifestyle!  In other Asian and Russian countries, they are very strict, and there are a lot of rules, and education is really, really hard.  The people are easy here, I feel safe and comfortable.  Well, I do live with the police!  Everyone here is so nice, and it is so easy here.

Gazette:  Do you think you will come back to the US?
Aidana:  I think I will apply to a university in Kazakhstan, but I may come back to the US.  There is a school in a small really beautiful town in Kentucky, with just 3,000 people.  It is an international school that only accepts one student from each country.  They don’t have any one from Kazakhstan, so I can hopefully be accepted there.  They focus on international business, and I think I would really like it there.

Gazette:  Would you recommend students to participate in an exchange program?
Aidana:  Oh yes, definitely!  I would also recommend families in Seldovia to host students, it has been a great experience.

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Category: Community, Education

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