Courtesy of Mia Veljinoska
Similarly to most teens, senior Mia Veljanoska dreamt of traveling to a new country to explore the culture, make new friends and learn to be independent. Veljanoska’s dream came true after a series of interviews, exams and essays, when she found out she had been one of twelve Macedonian students chosen to spend an exchange year in Massachusetts.
“Since I was a little girl, I watched and heard a lot of things about America, and I really liked it here,” Veljanoska said. “It was always a dream of mine to come to the USA.”
Not expecting to be chosen, Veljanoska was blindsided when she found out she would complete her senior year at Wayland High School.
“I was coming back from school when my phone rang,” Veljanoska said. “I stopped, realizing who it was, so I stared at my phone and couldn’t process all of the feelings that were happening. I [couldn’t] breathe. I was screaming, laughing, and jumping up and down in my yard. It was such a happy feeling.”
After months of preparation through the American Field Service (AFS), the time finally arrived that Veljanoska had to leave her friends and family behind to embark on a new adventure in Wayland.
“It was a sad feeling [to leave home] because you have to give up your old life,” Veljanoska said. “This is a completely new place and a new beginning. You’re building everything from zero, so it’s a scary feeling. You don’t know if you will have friends or if you’ll get along with your host family. There’s a lot of things you don’t know, which can be uncomfortable.”
Veljanoska feared not only the unknown, but also the uncertainty of how a language barrier could be a setback to her easing into the foreign environment.
“My biggest fear was not being understood, and when I came here, I didn’t understand everything, and not everyone understood me,” Veljanoska said. “The language barrier is a lot of pressure. When I want to speak, I want to speak in my first language. I have to push myself to speak in English, and I have to think about what I want to say before I say them or else it won’t make sense.”
Veljanoska quickly found that the biggest obstacle she has to face in America is that she has to do work in English.
“I think I have to do double the work to do my work,” Veljanoska said. “For example, when you have to listen in class, take notes, and answer questions that you don’t understand at first, it’s hard, but I really like it.”
Coming all the way from eastern Europe, Veljanoska knew that her trip to America meant she had to work hard and take advantage of all opportunities that cross her path. She hopes to advance her English skills and become more mature as a result of being independent from all she knows at home.
“I have to educate myself as much as I can because there are a lot of useful resources here,” Veljanoska said. “Also, I think there is more opportunity here to succeed, so I want to achieve a lot of goals.”
Veljanoska made sure to get involved at school: she takes advanced placement computer science, plays volleyball, and is a part of the Women’s Empowerment club as well as the Cooking for a Cause club. Not only does Veljanoska want to take advantage of life inside of school, but she also seeks to enrich her life outside of school. She hopes to visit American amusement parks, take part in the American-specific holidays, Halloween and enjoy the luxuries of our local cinemas. But above all, she hopes to travel to California.
“I want to travel to California because it’s a dream of mine. It’s a place that gives me goosebumps and it is so pretty,” Veljanoska said.
Veljanoska looks forward to the rest of her time in America, and is excited to work on living independently. She emphasizes the importance of independence, and believes that without it, an exchange year would be nearly impossible.
“That’s why I can handle it here,” Veljanoska said. “If you can’t do things on your own, then you won’t be able to adjust.”