Just over four years ago, World Link alumni Ruslan Askarov (2014, Kazakhstan/CA) was attending the Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) in his home country, prior to traveling to Visalia, California; where he would spent the next 10 months of his life.
Now four years later, Ruslan was given the opportunity to prepare 119 Kazakhstani exchange students for their own life-changing year abroad.
Ruslan had a lot of advice to give as his exchange year was full of new activities. Ruslan was a member of FBLA, Key Club, LinkCrew, and Interact. Track and Field was an exciting new adventure. The 114 volunteer hours he spent giving back in his community gave Ruslan a whole new work ethic. He loved regularly volunteering to feed the homeless, organizing donations at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and spending quality time with local veterans.
Ruslan’s year also had a long list of achievements. He was a finalist in World Link’s International Education Week 2013 Competition. He was selected as World Link’s December 2013 FLEX Student of the Month. An American Literature teacher as his host school nominated him as a “Radical Ranger” for his academic success.
By the end of the year, Ruslan was in the top 10% of World Link’s Leadership Training Program and had also organized a successful Global Youth Service Day Project. Through his efforts, 10 large bags of clothing were donated to the local homeless shelter.
Since his exchange year, Ruslan has continued to fill his life with new opportunities. He is currently studying, on a full scholarship, at Kazakh-British Technical University in Almaty, earning his degree in Geology and Exploration of Ore Minerals.
He joined the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) during his first year. The following year, he joined the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG); and after one year of membership, he became their Manager of External Affairs. In this position, Ruslan was responsible for finding sponsors for events and competitions. At this time he was also actively involved in the FLEX Community;
“I have volunteered in an Education Fair, by representing American universities. Also, I have participated in Halloween celebrations by playing with kids. We, as alumni, gathered together on Thanksgiving Day, and Nauryz [Kazakh New Year].”
This summer, he received two emails.
One email stated he was selected to attend the EXPO-Camp in Astana free-of-charge. To apply, Ruslan sent in a one-minute video about alternative energy in Kazakhstan. This video, during the camp was voted as one of best out of 200 submissions.
The second email stated he had won a $1000 scholarship from SEG to put towards his current research in Geology.
All these successes were great, but Ruslan wanted to get back to the FLEX Family and contribute to his own society through training future leaders. He wanted to share his knowledge and experience with future exchange students and give them a boost of confidence before they ventured into 10 months of a new life in the United States.
Ruslan was accepted to be a trainer at this year’s Pre-Departure Orientation in Kazakhstan. Before he could train though, he needed training himself.
In the spring of 2017, he participated in a 4-day intensive training in Almaty with American teachers and FLEX Alumni from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. During this camp these future trainers learned how to teach students effectively and get them well prepared for their year abroad.
Flash forward to this summer, Ruslan taught 119 student from all regions across Kazakhstan important cultural aspects which will help them transition more easily once they arrive on U.S soil.
Those students were not the only ones to learn something during their PDO. Ruslan learned what direction he wants to focus his own career;
“During that training, I found my own passion. I now know I want to be a professional international trainer in the near future.”
Ruslan says it was his exchange year to thank for the person he has become today;
“Those 9 months were so intensive and full of adventures, that my exchange year gave me enormous experience and strong spirit. I still keep this spirit with me.
At the end, I want to say, that all these things that happened to me, is because of World Link and the FLEX Program. The exchange year made me who I am right now. I will be a professional trainer in the near future, it is my destiny!
Thank you Castro family! Thank you Redwood High School! Thank you World Link! Thank you FLEX! I am proud to be your exchange student!”