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Walk in their shoes

Ulyana Pyrlik

Walk in their shoes

Get to know Marina Mirzoyan, our foreign exchange student from Armenia

Five years of dreaming, one moment to catch the opportunity, a year in expectations and she is in America, after four days awaiting for the flight on her half-way…

Marina Mirzoyan, our FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) program student, came from Armenia, “a country of hospitable people.” Her hobbies are dancing and singing for herself. In addition to these hobbies, Marina is interested in learning languages. She has learned four languages including her native Armenian, German, Russian, and Ukrainian and now she can practice her English in America. “The story of my English skills is quirky,” she said. “Two years ago I didn’t know this language at all and decided to apply for a free program to learn it. I have always been dreaming about traveling to the USA, and considered it as a good opportunity to improve my English.”

The dream came true even if Marina didn’t rely on herself. “Being a participant of a special exchange program for the first time, I was really surprised when I found out that I am among the winners. I was only 15 and didn’t really expect it, decided that I would be totally convinced only when get on the airplane,” she admitted.

Marina’s parents had ambivalent reactions. “Before applying for the program, my father was afraid of and emphatically against my traveling to another country for such a long time alone, but my mom. She had a positive attitude and encouraged me a lot. Everything changed after announcing the results. Mother didn’t take it seriously, had a lot of emotions and started to cry, telling she would not let me leave, when my father wished me a good trip.” But the traveling turned out being not so smooth. As Marina recalls, “There was a layover at Frankfurt airport. Our flights were being kept delayed for 4 days and we had to sleep in chairs at the beginning. Everyone was scared, sad and cold. Fortunately, accompanying adults settled us at the hotel the next day and organized a trip to the city. It was so attractive that nobody wanted to leave it.” She is happy with this adventure anyway and remarked, “Now we know every single place at the world’s biggest airport as explored it inside and out!”

As Marina arrived to the States, she was captivated by the opportunity of starting a new life in a different environment. “I always knew America as a country of freedom. Thinking about my school and future friends, I was really inspired,” she said. “When you are an exchange student, you live for today, don’t think for tomorrow and just enjoy the moments.”

Marina is willing to any sport and used to do Cross Country at Mead High School. “It was not all about running. I didn’t like it as much as I did love the team. People were funny and friendly there, besides, I like to do things with team that supports you and encourage to do your staff,” she said as she recalled her time with the team. She is going to participate in track and field and soccer this spring. Marina appreciates the variety of classes and schedule itself. “We had up to 8 classes every day in Armenia with 16 subjects in total. It helps you to know almost all of them, but I was lucky to choose Spanish here,” she shared. She seems to enjoy her time here in the States but she does miss her friends at home. “I have two best friends: one in my town and another lives in the capital, two hours away. We were spending a lot of good time together.”

But Marina keeps up with getting new experiences. Some interesting foods here surprised her. “I’ve never tried pineapple pizza and it actually didn’t make sense for me. I don’t like fruit in fast food and it is not something I was used to,” she noted. 

Volunteering also seems to attract Marina. “My favorite one was during the Halloween festival since there were many kids and I loved seeing them and their smiling faces.” Thanksgiving Day also left impressive memories. “We had 35 people over and I enjoyed their soulful company.”

While in the USA, Marina wants to go camping, hiking, and try mountain climbing. She will also visit New York City as a gala speaker from her program soon.

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