From Armenia with love

The moment junior Nina Melkonyan broke through the front doors of Ames High School with her luscious curls of steel and let out her signature laugh, she garnered the attention of the student body. Melkonyan is from Armenia, a country the size of the state of Maryland located east of Turkey in the Caucasus Mountains. She lived in the capital, Yerevan, before coming to Ames in late August. “I came here with the FLEX Program (Future Leaders Exchange Program), and it works in fifteen former Soviet Union countries,” Melkonyan said. “We take three exams (administered by FLEX) and we come here for the whole year. (The FLEX coordinators) were trying to figure out what kind of people we are, if we can live alone in another country, and they choose from 900 students only 38.” Although Melkonyan said she has yet to experience homesickness and culture shock, adjusting to life in a foreign country was still difficult. Melkonyan added, “It’s hard because I’m very communicative and it’s hard not to talk with your friends. I want to share my experience with someone, and it’s really hard to do that when you’re in a foreign country. Also, the first few weeks it was really hard to understand. All of [Americans’] talking is really very fast.” In addition to overcoming the language barrier, Melkonyan has also had to adjust to the unfamiliar American high school atmosphere. One of the biggest differences between Armenian and American schools is the size. “We have only been a country for fifteen years, so we don’t have this big system,” Melkonyan said. “We have small schools, and lots of schools.” Melkonyan also complained about the size of American textbooks. “We do not have these big books in Armenia,” Melkonyan said with a laugh. “My bag here is six kilograms.” Despite the challenges of adjusting to life in a foreign country, Melkonyan said she has enjoyed her experience at Ames High so far. She is an active member of SHEPH, and her favorite classes include Painting and World Issues. “My favorite class is French (One),” Melkonyan said. “It’s my fourth language!” Melkonyan’s enthusiasm for school and extracurricular activities has made it easy for her to make many friends. “She’s super nice and outgoing, and she makes me laugh,” junior and host sister Emily Meese said. “She may or may not be related to Cher or the Kardashians.” Junior Alyssa Bovinette added, “I love her! She’s hilarious and very, very talkative.” Melkonyan will return to Armenia in late May or early June. For the time being, however, she wants to have the full American experience. “I want to do it all,” Melkonyan said. “I don’t want to miss anything.”