November 2019, Vol. XXV, No. 3

Article Index


Contest Winner: Vladimir (FLEX, Kazakhstan)


When I was a child, maybe six or seven years old, I used to listen to music. At the time, I didn’t understand the meaning of the words or the aims of songs. I just listened to it and had fun.    

A conscious love of music began at the age of 10. I listened to music every day and everywhere. To be honest, I still do. Three years later, I picked up my dad’s guitar. I don’t know why, but I really wanted to play it, and so I started practicing. I didn’t have any teachers or mentors; I just turned on YouTube tutorials to learn how to play.

For the first couple of years, I didn’t sound very good, but I played almost every day and my skills improved pretty quickly.

You might ask me, “Why do you play?” or “What is the reason?” I have two main reasons. The first is to express my emotions. If I feel something inside, something that’s hard to say or something that I don’t want other people to know about, I show it in the way I play a song.

Some people need to cry or talk to a friend. I just play the guitar.

The second reason is to make other people happy. I love seeing people’s smiles when I perform. There may not be many of these people, but I know that there are some who are glad to listen to what I’m playing.

I also play the piano. The big difference between piano and guitar is that when I play the piano, my emotions become brighter.

My father always wanted me to play the piano. He bought me a keyboard when I was eight, but I didn’t like it and now I understand why. Piano and keyboard are two different things that I can hardly compare. When I play a keyboard, it’s cold inside. It doesn’t have soul. But when I play the piano, my soul wakes up. I only started playing the piano about two months ago, when I came to the U.S. I hadn’t had the opportunity to play it before, but here in the U.S. I do.

Never give up! That’s what I tell myself when it is hard to learn something.

—Vladimir (FLEX, Kazakhstan), hosted by the Grube family (MN)


1) PAX's Got Talent!

Vladimir is far from the only one with talent—check out these passionate PAXers!


2) On the Home Front

Maine to Washington State—here's how the boys are getting along in late autumn...

Two Perspectives

Exchange Student from Somaliland on a Horse 360x360 

"Hosting an exchange student from such a different culture and country for a whole year is a big undertaking..."

"From my first days in NH and VT I experienced a lot of new things. For example, I met the family dog, Buddy, who..." 

ReadMore White 199


"Mom in Maine"

Spanish Exchange Student Icicle 360x360 

The firsts are what amaze me the most about my exchange son, Eneko, this year. The excitement that fills him when he's about to do something or see something he's never seen before brings me so much joy. 

There have been many firsts this year... 

ReadMore White 199


Festival of Flowers

Teenage boy from India arranges flowers for holiday with U.S. host family 

I celebrated an Indian festival called Bathukamma (The Festival of Flowers) with my host family and it was amazing sharing my culture.

As it is the festival of flowers, we started collecting flowers a week before. We cooked my favorite sweet called samiya. My family... 

ReadMore White 199




3) Exchange Living

Hitting the road, helping others, and celebrating holidays—these PAX host families got the idea!


4) Students of the Month

Each month, PAX's Sponsored Programs Department identifies one extraordinary Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program student respectively. These standout students become PAX's official nominations for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' "Student of the Month" award.

YES November Nominee

Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study YES Program student from Pakistan holding "Don't quit your daydream" sign

PAX is excited to nominate Tilyan, an exchange student from Pakistan, studying in Indianapolis, IN, to be November’s YES Student of the Month.

Tilyan has embraced and maximized every opportunity available to her in such a short period of time. She has really immersed herself in the cultural exchange experience within her host family. Together, they have participated in many local events and activities. She is excited to learn about American culture and enjoys sharing her Pakistani heritage.

As an ambassador of her country, Tilyan has been a positive force, exuding acceptance of and enthusiasm for cultural differences, recognizing and conveying that we are all people regardless of those differences. 

Tilyan was featured in PAX Press and was selected for an online interview about her exchange year thus far to be shared on a news channel in Pakistan.

Her host family is impressed by Tilyan's determination and is supportive of her initiative to break stereotypes. During Eid, her host family took Tilyan to a Pakistani restaurant to share traditional food and the entire family wore Pakistani traditional clothing. Together, they attended an international festival also in traditional Pakistani wear to support cultural diversity. Her host family loves her, and she loves them!

Additionally, Tilyan has shown substantial initiative in becoming involved in her local community. By October, she had already completed more than 60 hours of volunteer service. Tilyan volunteers at her host family's church (child care) and at Southport Public Library by arranging and checking books. She is also actively engaged in her local Key Club and joined the Young Women in Leadership Group in Indianapolis, which focuses on improving leadership skills and growth opportunities for young women.

Tilyan is taking a full course load of classes and is doing very well in school. She is even taking some elective courses, including speech, piano, and journalism. Tilyan also won a speech contest in her class.

In school, she has become actively engaged in many clubs, including: Key Club, Speech Club, and Debate Club. She is well liked by her friends and teachers, and she is determined to experience the most that she can, with regard to American lifestyle and culture, during her exchange year. She is also determined to share her culture. She already gave a presentation on Pakistani Independence Day.

Tilyan is a model exchange student and a wonderful representative of Pakistan, the YES program, and of PAX as an organization. It is with great enthusiasm that we nominate Tilyan for YES Student of the Month, November 2019.

—The PAX Sponsored Team

FLEX November Nominee

Teenage girl from Kyrgyzstan pulling girl on wagon at U.S. volunteer activity

It is with great enthusiasm that PAX nominates Stamgul from Kyrgyzstan, studying in Springfield, VT to be FLEX Student of the Month, November 2019.

Stamgul has seamlessly blended with her host family and is considered a family member herself. She stepped right into her role of big sister with enthusiasm and is wonderfully engaging with her younger sister. She often organizes activities for the two of them, including walks outside and movie nights. Stamgul has also developed a special bond with her host mother. Both avid readers, they share a similar taste in books and enjoy talking about literature and books they have read together.

Stamgul is a stellar member of her high school community. With several elective and advanced courses, including Calculus, Public Speaking and Debate, Information Technology, and Psychology, she has a demanding course load. In addition to this, she has also joined her school’s cheerleading team. She had never been on a cheerleading team before so at first was very nervous to cheer in front of the school. But she has overcome that fear. The cheer team is active not only at traditional sporting events, but also throughout the school for spirit activities.

Stamgul has enthusiastically immersed herself in her local community. She uses local volunteer opportunities to engage with her community and learn more about the American way of life. Stamgul has already completed 46 hours of volunteer service in her local community and has the very ambitious goal of completing 100 hours by Christmas! Her volunteer work has included a river cleanup, working with younger students in after school program All4One, planting flowers in front of her school, and organizing and working at a steampunk festival. She has also volunteered to be a speaker at a local elementary school’s “World Cultures” program.

Additionally, just last month Stamgul participated in New England’s first ever Epilepsy Foundation walk, where they raised money and awareness for epilepsy—a cause very close to her host family’s hearts. Stamgul says, “I was glad to be there and support my host family! We walked 2.6 miles [on] the rail track… It was really fun and also informative!”

Stamgul has embodied the mission of the exchange experience, and she has been a fantastic representative of Kyrgyzstan, the FLEX program, and of PAX. We are thrilled she is having a great experience. “I have been having an incredible time with my lovely host family and host community!” says Stamgul. “Thank you PAX, FLEX and the U.S. Government for this opportunity”.

—The PAX Sponsored Team


5) Most-Talented Cluster

The most-talented cluster has made the most touching dedication. They would like to share the below cultural performances with the PAX community in honor of late community coordinator Ann Schneider of Oregon.

Ardana (YES, Indonesia), Luna (Spain), Makram (YES, Arab Communities of Israel), and Roda (PAX Means Peace Scholar, Somaliland) under the direction of Maranee Sanders, community coordinator (OR)