Learning the American Way

July 19, 2013

Photo of Danijela Danijela Z., a participant in the A-SMYLE program. Danijela Živković always jumped at the chance to try new activities at her high school in Čačak, Serbia. That passion has served her well as a representative of the A-SMYLE program.

“I wanted to come to the U.S to learn and to see all the differences in [American] lifestyle and to experience different things,” says Danijela. “My experience here has made me incredibly independent, like I never was before.”

The World Link student, who attended Washington High School in Washington, Iowa, has made community service and leadership her two main goals while in the United States. Danijela completed almost 120 volunteer hours during her year.

“I participated in the International Education Week in November, and I’ve done over 20 cultural presentations on my country,” she said. “I did a radio interview for the KCII station. I had roles in the school play, and I’ve participated in the La Onda club at school, the Art Service club, choir, speech, Teen Advisory Board, and journalistic publications like the school newspaper and yearbook. I've volunteered at the animal shelter, community center, soup kitchen, library, and also for a presidential campaign.”

When asked for tips to improve one’s experience, Danijela suggested that students understand the American high school system as much as possible, and to be prepared for the fact that things will be different than what they’re used to at home. But, she says, that can also lead to incredible moments like “seeing Jon Bon Jovi two meters in front of me” at a presidential event in Iowa.

Danijela recognized the importance of improving her leadership skills in an unfamiliar environment. Embracing the tenets of the A-SMYLE program – education, exchange, engagement, and empowerment – she participated in youth leadership conferences that gave her the confidence to meet new people. She credits them and her program coordinator for their support.

“The thing that I got out of this year and that I value the most are the different people I've met here, and I hope that I will see many of them again,” she says. “And those who live in countries near Serbia, I'm sure I will and that these friendships will last a lifetime.”