By Olesea (Alice) Burdugos (2005-2006; Moldova/Iowa)
I had been among very few selected students from my country to go on an exchange program in the United States, called FLEX in 2005. Excitement was above the sky!! 10 years ago, I remember walking on a hallway in a very small airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It felt strange, mixed feelings, tons of questions in my head, is it going to work? How’s my host family going to be like? Will I make it throughout a year? How does my school look like? Will I have friends? Will it have an impact on my future? So many unanswered questions…
I now have all the answers, as I’ve been experiencing it all. I would like to share with readers that it was an unbelievable lifetime experience! This unique chance, has changed my entire future and I am realizing it just now.
My host family has been wonderful. The very first week they took me out to Six Flags, most popular theme park featuring dozens of thrill rides, shows, and activities. It was amazing!
Host family from day one knew the importance of making friends before school, so they had me join church activities and volunteering activities. They had introduced me to the community, they had been taking me around places and events. Gratefully, I would like to say that before school started many people had known me and I had made many friends. Host family gave me significant support at all times, and I realize it now more than ever when I look back. Thanks to them I acclimated easily and my stay in the US turned to be super nice.
We used to have popcorn nights every Sunday, nice Christmas family timing, along with many presents. I had my own room. Mom and Dad, I call them even today, let me go out and stay at friends’ house, have my friends come over to our house. I have experienced deer hunting with host family. They allowed me to go to different cities for shopping with girls from high school. We would go to baseball games and cinema. Mom and Dad would allow me to go on dates, to school dances, etc. They organized unbelievable party for me on my graduation and end of my stay in the US, and we had so many people come over 🙂 Thank you.
I was part of FFA (Future Farmers of America), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), manager for girls baseball team, etc. I took part in different contests, making me a winner in Public Speaking Competition, Gold award on district level, World Link 2nd place winner at the International Education week competition, FFA Eagle Award for Outstanding Efforts.
Dear reader, I’ve lived my life so full and so different from my home country. Honestly, everything was much, much more than expected and only positive outcome.
Many tears went down our cheeks on my day of departure. Even though I was so looking forward to go back home and share all these memories with everyone, separation with my family in the US was hard. I wouldn’t know whether future would bring us ever together. And certainly it did! Back in April this year, I have posted on Facebook my upcoming trip to Chicago in May with dates and host dad saw it. He made it happen. They drove 4 hours from Iowa to Illinois to spend little time with me and catch up. Seeing them again after 10 years was unbelievable! If people have the wish, they make it happen. That’s how great my host family is; they made it happen! And I honestly value this so much! We agreed upon meeting same place, same time; next year. Looking forward to it!
A little bit about myself: upon my return from the US, I have been actively involved with American community in Moldova, to bring the change. I have taken part in many projects within the US Embassy, American Chamber of Commerce, International Organization of Migration, and different student organizations. In 2010, I have entirely organized July 4th picnic in Republic of Moldova with 900 guests, live concert and sponsorships.
In 2008, I have earned as an individual the award/scholarship of President of Estonia to go and study in Tartu, International Relationships. At that time, my university wasn’t among participants for scholarship, therefore I organized a visit for Tartu University board staff in my home country and a collaboration pact was signed between Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova and Tartu University. Nowadays, my Academy peers are fruitfully taking part in this scholarship. Literally, couple weeks ago, on a trip to Moldova, by chance, I have met with the Principal of the Academy and he expressed his gratitude for it 🙂 I’m very proud to have made an impact and have left a mark. And all this, thanks to FLEX, World Link, and my experience in the US!
I graduated the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova in 2009, specialty finance and banks. I also undertook a master degree in Banking Administration. Upon completion of my studies, I have opened a call center business in Romania, successfully running it for 3 years, having 87 staff working for me.
This year, I decided it was time for me to move on with my journey, thus I joined VPS International, a telecommunications company out of the USA, headquartered in Miami. I’m overseeing all operations and commercial side for Europe, Middle East, Africa and CIS. My immediate objective is to bring to the company a minimum of $30 million in revenue in the next year.
I’m a speaker of 5 languages and I have been traveling around the world, visiting 40+ countries, among those are: China, India, Philippines, UAE, Thailand, almost entire Europe, USA (Hawaii, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago), Brazil, Canada, Israel, Jordan, CIS (Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Moldova).
Dear reader, embrace the exchange program and the experience, it will for sure bring significant change in your life and have a great impact on your future!!