Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program participant Anton Meshkov traveled from a bustling city in Russia to the small town of Shevlin, MN.
"I live in a small city in Russia where I can just step outside and get something from a store," says Anton. "Living on the farm with my host family… places are farther and you have to plan for shopping."
Though unaccustomed to long distances, Anton was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar scene in the United States. "At first I was like ‘oh my God, they have birch trees'," says Anton. He also found that in both America and Russia, "TV, music, and teenagers are the same."
While in the United States, Anton visited North Dakota and Texas, and was in Washington, D.C. for the FLEX Civic Education Workshop.
"When I visited Houston and the NASA Space Center I visited Rocket Park – the size of the rocket was fascinating," says Anton. "It was very big and overwhelming – very interesting!"
Anton hopes future FLEX participants will leave their fears and expectations behind when coming to the United States.
"The FLEX program is amazing," says Anton. "It was my third attempt [to come to America]. I wanted to test myself and see if I will be able to do it and handle everything by leaving home. No one will have the same opportunities [in the FLEX program]. Write your own story. Just relax and go."
"In my host family I found what I was looking for – a good understanding and kind family. Whatever I ask, they respond in a good way. I became more confident and ambitious. It feels like there is absolutely nothing I can't do. I'm looking forward to seeing alumni when I go home and in 10 years."
So far, Anton has completed 70 hours of community service in his American community. In school, he is involved in theater, track, and Knowledge Bowl. Anton is interested in studying international relations, graphic art, and psychology.