Foreign exchange student from Azerbaijan holding the American flag during a family trip to the Pacific coast
Cavid takes in the grandeur of the picturesque Pacific Ocean.

An Ocean of Experiences

I think it happens with all exchange students—we think America is like Hollywood movies, but it is not really like that. Being an exchange student does not mean you are going to be happy and have fabulous times every day. No, being an exchange student means you are going to have awesome times but also sad ones. Sometimes, you are going to feel mad. Sometimes, you are going to think that you should not be here or that it may be a waste of time.

I think the reason that we are here is that we are going to change the world to be a much more happy place. I am 17 years old, but I think I have more than other people who are older than me. Everything I have seen, heard, and experienced this year has shown me that  human beings are naturally inclined to love each other, and that was  before being Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist—be-fore being American, Australian, European, African, or Asian. We are humans. The only thing that could generate hatred and push people to become terrorists is ignorance. When people don’t understand the differences between each others’ cultures, they tend to close off themselves, pushed by the fear of the unknown.

Being an exchange student is learning, while recognizing the value of people back home. It is really awesome but hard to live between two countries, two communities. It is certainly not a waste of time.

—Cavid (FLEX, Azerbaijan), hosted by the Maxwell family (OH)