Coming to America

Meet This Year’s Foreign Exchange Students


Rosali Flores, Staff Editor

This year, Porterville High School is hosting two foreign exchange students, seniors Aruna Angsabek and Bakhtiyar Memmedzade. (Whenever foreign exchange students attend our high school, they are automatically placed in the senior class.) At the end of the year, they will be a part of the graduation ceremony, although they will not be graduating officially they will receive a certificate of attendance.
Sixteen-year-old Aruna Angsebek originates from Kazakhstan, located in Central Asia. Aruna speaks three languages, Kazakh, Russian, and English, and is trying to learn Spanish because it is so common here in California. Settling in was difficult for Aruna; she missed her family, and has never been so far from home and expressed, “it is like a part of a Netflix series.” Aruna’s host family has helped her settle in, and the Porterville community has made her feel welcomed and more at home.
Aruna chose to be an exchange student because of the rigid structure of schooling in her home country. She explained that students here have more choices and freedoms about their education than compared to her school. In Kazakhstan, she wears a uniform every day and cannot choose her own classes. Aruna is involved in Student Council at her school, so being a part of the ASB here at PHS has made transitioning to our school easier.
One of the main things that Aruna says is different in America is the food. In Kazakhstan, meals tend to focus on a meat and add lots of flavors; although there are still a lot of things for her to try, she really enjoys quesadillas and french fries.
Bakhtiyar Mammadzada is seventeen years old and comes from Azerbaijan, located in Eurasia. Bakhtiyar speaks Azerbaijan, Turkish, English, and some Russian. The first week Bakhtiyar was in America he was homesick, and he wanted to go back to Azerbaijan. His foreign exchange program encouraged him to stay and enjoy the here and now moments, so obviously, he did. Bakhtiyar’s home school is all housed in one building, and like Aruna, he did not have electives classes and his classes were chosen for him.

Bakhityar became an exchange student because he wanted to learn about American culture, places, and people. In the future, he wants to use this experience to teach his country about America. Initially, Bakhityar had a difficult time adapting to the United States; although, with the help of his host family and the Porterville community, he is having a much better time. He explained that his people tend to be serious in his country because they do not enjoy life in front of them; instead, they are focused on surviving.
Before coming to Porterville, Bakhityar thought his accent would be difficult for people to understand, and they would get upset and not speak to him because it was too much of a struggle… However, he said, “American people are really helpful, it is not a problem to help, and they always try to understand. American people are really sincere.” For the first three days, he was in America, Bakhtiyar was unable to eat because American food was too much of a shock to his system. He struggled to keep food down and was not used to the flavors, explaining that our food contains more spices than his country’s, but he is adapting and now enjoys tacos, burritos, and nachos. He also shared that they do have a McDonald’s in Azerbaijan, saying, “McDonald’s is McDonald’s, but my country’s McDonald’s is tasty.”
Both Aruna and Bakhityar enjoy meeting new people and are excited for the school year that lies ahead of them. You can follow them on Instagram: Aruna’s Instagram is @runansabek, and Bakhtiyar’s Instagram is @mbex808. You can also see them tagged in their introduction photos on the Panther ASB Instagram page, @pantherasb. If you see them around campus make sure you say hi!