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Photo Courtesy of Sanira Kurmanbekova

In the Library of Congress

Meet Sanira Kurmanbekova

March 9, 2023

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an exchange student? There are two at FCHS this year, one of which is Sanira Kurmabekova. Kurmabekova is from Kyrgyzstan, a country in Central Asia which is famous for its beautiful mountains, lakes, andthe largest natural walnut forests in the world. Kyrgyzstan is also famous for its fascinating culture and traditions.

Kurmanbekova has been at FCHS since the end of August. She is a participant in the Future Leaders Exchange or FLEX, a scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State that operates in over 20 countries. The scholarship is extremely competitive, with around 35,000 kids applying annually and only one in fifty receiving the scholarship. There are many stages in the application process, with meticulous exams, and the students are taught about communication and responsibility to provide them with the skills to succeed in their new environments.

Kurmanbekova, who was selected by a family in Virginia, said she loves state’s terrain and “pleasant climate.” She is not only adapting to living in an entirely different country, but also adjusting to living in rural Fluvanna since she comes from a densely-populated city. She said she enjoys being an exchange student, including the challenges it brings and the adventure and experiences that come with it.

“I think it’s never easy to leave the place where you grew up in, but stepping out of your comfort zone will make your whole experience worthwhile,” she said.

Kurmanbekova has visited many places around Virginia and tried many new things. “My worldview, my priorities, and my goals have changed since I came here,” she said. “This place, environment, and people have definitely influenced me,” she added.

She explained that schools in Kyrgyzstan pay close attention to the discipline and behavior of students, have a strict dress code, and forbid students from having long nails or bright make-up. She added that teachers in her country are treated with high respect, that schools focus more on academic performance than in America, and that they tend to be stricter and demand more from their students.

Students in Kyrgyzstan have 18 classes each week, with a schedule that changes daily. While there are 12 grades in America, in Kyrgyzstan there are only 11 years of study, so this year Kurmanbekova is graduating from school, despite being the equivalent of an American high school junior.

Kurmanbekova’s hobbies include cooking and baking sweets, so she is taking a Culinary class this semester to continue perfecting her craft. She also enjoys reading, especially fiction and novels, and loves to travel. Although she has only visited five countries, she’s hoping that her current visit will be one of many.

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Isabella Higginbotham, Journalist

Isabella is in 10th grade. This is her first year in Journalism. She is on the Debate team and likes to draw. A fun fact about her is that she has two...

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