Ani Baghdasaryan

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A LONG WAY FROM ARMENIA Agnes Hagin

Rockmart Journal, GA Jan 18 2006

Ani Baghdasaryan, an exchange student from Armenia, finds life in America an adventure that is helping her understand the culture of this country.

Ani, a sophomore at Rockmart High School, is residing with host parents Charles and Jill Soles, Fish Creek Community. She admits her first time crossing "a big ocean" to come to America was an experience she will never forget. The 12-hour flight took her from Vienna to Washington, D.C. and on to Atlanta. Prior to that time, she took part in a three-phase interview process. Ani, 16, was asked if she could live away from her parents for several months.

The exchange program has a five-star action plan, which requires about 50 hours of community service. Ani must complete this total before May 17. She must also shadow a business leader(s) so that she can write an essay about her experience. If anyone would like to offer this support to Ani, they can contact Jill at 706-506-0518. She will respond and make the arrangements.

Ani arrived in Polk during August. However, she later transitioned from her first host family to live with her new host parents. Jill said the process was easy after meeting with the local representative of ASSE-International Student Exchange Programs.

The first impression Ani said she had of America was that there are no pedestrians. "In Armenia, we walk everywhere. I saw no one on the streets and everyone seems to own a car," she said. One of her new experiences is learning to ride a bicycle and traveling along the Silver Comet Trail. "I enjoyed it," she added. Schools are also different, according to Ani. "In my country," she said, "we don't move. The teachers come to us, and we have the same classmates for 10 years. We have a 6-hour school day and lessons are about 45 minutes.

In my country, I am a senior. Here, I am a sophomore." In Armenia, Ani said she has more homework and it is more difficult. "We have math, geometry and algebra every year and we study very hard," she explained. Ani speaks her native language but is also fluent in English and Russian. She hopes to attend college when she returns home.

While here, Ani has experienced two American holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, she does not celebrate Thanksgiving. The big holiday is held on Dec. 31, which is the new year in Armenia.

Although she loves American food, Ani finds it is different. In her country, everything is cooked in a variety of ways, including the traditional dishes that contain beef, pork and cabbage. Jill said Ani is learning to cook. She prepared an Armenian dish to take to a recent gathering of exchange students in Douglasville. Both described the event as exciting.

Another experience for Ani has been her attendance at Happy Valley Church in Villa Rica. "We are Christian," she said, "but it is different. We don't sing like here but some people do specials. When we go to church, we light candles like the Catholics." She said she loved the church and taking part in the singing at Happy Valley. "It is good," she added. Ani has made friends in Rockmart and Cedartown.

She also said she enjoyed talking to the language teachers. "Everyone at both schools have made me very welcome," she said. Ani is also anticipating her return home and a reunion with her parents Smbat and Greta and brother Samvel.


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