Nargiza Kanybek Kyzy, a foreign exchange student from Kyrgyztan, stands in front of a mural in the senior hallway at Fillmore Central.
Nargiza Kanybek Kyzy, a foreign exchange student from Kyrgyztan, stands in front of a mural in the senior hallway at Fillmore Central.
Nargiza Kanybek Kyzy has journeyed from the other side of the globe from her home country of Kyrgyzstan to spend this school year as an exchange student at Fillmore Central High School.

Kyrgyztan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is a new country formed about 20 years ago after claiming independence from the Soviet Union. It is located in mountainous Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. It is pronounced "kur-gi-STAN" and is one of those countries most people have to look up to understand its location!

Nargiza is a very bright, vivacious, petite, 17-year-old. Her travel to Fillmore County was made possible by the FLEX (Future Leaders Exchange) program, which provides scholarships for high school students (ages 15 to 17) from Eurasia to spend an academic year in the United States, living with a family and attending an American high school. This program is sponsored by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a very competitive program. She was selected as one of only 50 student participants out of the 3,000 students who applied.

Josh and Cheryl Krage of Preston are Nargiza's host parents through this exchange year. Nargiza speaks warmly of her host family and sincerely appreciates the support they have given her. She calls it a "perfect fit." She gets to communicate regularly with her own family by phone and has Skyped also. She truly appreciates the support that she has received from both "families" to have the chance at this exchange experience.

In comparing her school experiences in her home country to the Fillmore Central experience, Nargiza shared how different they are.

At her public school, Gynasium #37, located in the capital city of Bishkek, the education experience is more formal. Students are required to wear uniforms. The course work is all predetermined with no choice of classes and they attend school six days a week, Monday through Saturday. There are no sports, music or drama during the school day.

After school opportunities are offered and Nargiza participated in girls basketball and volleyball, which are mostly played for fun in a non-competitive setting. She was also involved in a dance studio where she was learning break dancing and hip hop style dance.

While at Fillmore Central, Nargiza has enjoys the more relaxed attitude of American high schools where learning is more fun, teachers are more approachable and there is significant use of technology in teaching.

Students at Fillmore Central seem to work just as hard at their studies but have the opportunity to be involved in many more activities. Sports, music and drama are more important to students here than in her home county.

At Fillmore Central, Nargiza is on the volleyball and basketball teams and participates in the photo club. She hopes to play softball this spring.

"After all," said Nargiza, "what is more American than softball?"

She is excited about the senior trip where she will get to travel to Washington, D.C., and New York. She says it will be a dream come true to see New York City!

Cold and snow is nothing new to Nargiza as Kyrgyzstan shares a similar, but drier climate. She has gone downhill skiing and hopes to go again.

This will be Nargiza's first Christmas experience as her country is mostly Muslim. She has enjoyed helping with the Christmas tree and is looking forward to the giving and receiving of gifts.

The future is very bright for this young globetrotter. When she returns to her home country she plans to attend college at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgystan.

She came from a large city to the small town of Preston, but she will return knowing she has the confidence to handle any situation.

Wise for her age, Nargiza said, "All one has to do is to feel free to talk with people!"