The only way to save this evil planet is to start with the youth! They are our only hope for a better tomorrow. The old folks have already formed their opinions , but the youth still have a chance at seeking understanding and respect between those that are different from us.
The exchange programs like A-SMYLE are amazing. They are helping students from all over The Balkans see the beauty, culture, and life in the United States of America. It is very rare to find any negative feedback from the kids that have been on these programs.
Many of the students on the A-SMYLE program contact me! They are always thankful for my blog and videos about their country. They say that it makes it easier to explain Serbia to their friends. 🙂 I know so many former and current students. It really puts a smile on my face when I get a message from one of these bright kids. If you are interested in A-SMYLE check out their website http://www.ac-see.org/programs/hs-citiesdates.htm
I was contacted by this young man named Vuk Vasic. He was accepted into the A-AMYLE program after beating out many others in this area. He is from the beautiful town of Jagodina that is located in the heart of Serbia. He was placed into a host family from Edwardsville, Illinois USA. That isn’t far from my hometown of Greenup, IL!! Lets see what he has to say about his time in “The Land of Lincoln”
I’m a Serbian exchange student from a town called Jagodina in central Serbia. I went to America through A-Smyle, an exchange program completely financed and supported by the US Department of State. You asked me to share my American experience and I will but first, I must tell you something about my history.
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to go to America, it was mostly because I was influenced by American culture through TV, Internet and video games. All of this pushed me to start learning English at a young age, even before they started teaching it in school. By the time I was in 5th grade (when Serbian students used to start learning English) I already had a basic knowledge. My English teacher helped me perfect it, plus I practiced a lot with my friends outside of school.
I had a group of friends who by 8th grade all shared my dream of going to America and experiencing the culture first hand. The wonderful exchange opportunity came in my Sophomore year of high school and me and my friends jumped at the opportunity. Sadly, out of 4 of us that had the same dream, only I had the opportunity to actually experience it. When the acceptance call came, my whole family was overjoyed but what followed was nerve wracking and terrifying. It took the organization about 4 months to get me a host family, way, way longer than anyone else’s. My waiting was fruitful though, and I got placed with the most wonderful host family any exchange student can ever wish for, The McCrackens. They live in a small town of Edwardsville, near St. Louis in southern Illinois. This is where the rest of my year was spent.
Vuk and his American brother riding snowmobiles
I have done so many things here, it’s hard to recall everything but some of the highlights were:
Vuk meeting with 100 year old WWII vet
– Meeting an American WW2 veteran who’s turning 100 this year, he was my host family’s neighbor, so naturally, I had to meet him. As luck’ll have it, he spent some time in Yugoslavia(Country which Serbia was a part of in the 1900’s) in 1960’s and had only positive things to say about the hospitality of it’s people.
– Going to my school’s football games. That was the first time in my life that I have seen American Football being played, and being a soccer fan, it was hard for me to grasp the concept of it at first but later I started enjoying it immensely.
Vuk at the St Louis Blues hockey game.
– Watching professional hockey games. My host family are huge fans of hockey and the St. Louis Blues, so they took me to a couple of games. I absolutely loved it, it was like watching soccer on ice. Me and my host brother were so into it sometimes, yelling and cheering, that we got weird looks from people
Vuk as a cowboy in Nevada
– My trip to Nevada. My host grandma and my host aunt live in Reno, NV and during the Christmas break, my host mom took me and my host bro’s to their house. Being a huge fan of westerns, I was stoked to go to the actual Wild West and experience it. I wasn’t disappointed. Between going to fancy restaurants, enjoying Casino atmospheres, snowmobiling and just generally strolling around in my Ten Gallon hat and cowboy boots ,(How could I come to America and not get some western wear?) there was no time to rest.
Vuk at 4-H function
– Going to different seminars and workshops with other exchange students from all over the world (Albania, Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and many others). We all had opportunities to share our experiences and troubles which proved to be fairly important to the entire exchange year.
Vuk dressed as a hillbilly for Halloween
There were many other experiences but those were the ones that stood out to me. Other than that, American people are wonderful and friendly, people are approachable and easy to talk to and some girls are very pretty Americans are actually quite fit in general and not fat as other nations stereotype them as. Sometimes I actually think that they overwork themselves. I should wrap it up since I’ve already been typing for an hour. I definitely recommend this program for any high school students because it isn’t just fun, it’s also life changing.
Thanks a million for this excellent story!! I am very happy that you are enjoying my home state as much as I am enjoying Serbia! Average Americans and average Serbs will always be friends…