By Olivia Frye

When Diana Zigangirova showed up to Woodlake High School the first day of classes she did not realize how different life in this country would be compared to her native land.

Where were the uniforms? Why don't we attend different classes everyday? Why aren't there more languages spoken? Americans were way too casual then she was used to. These are all things that Zigangirova would soon learn and also come to love and respect.

Diana Zigangirova had a dream to learn new cultures, better her English and experience all that the United States has to offer. Zigangirova expressed her wishes to be a foreign exchange student to her parents. Zigangirova left on her long journey to the states on August 6, passing threw Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Washington DC, Denver and finally landing in Fresno where she was met by her new host family. Soon after she arrived she would be introduced to Woodlake High School. This is where Diana will spend the next year of her life. She is happy to be in the small town making new friends and getting to know the teachers. She says, &#8220everyone is very friendly here.” She also thinks that education is a privilege. You treat your teachers and peers with respect. Any other behavior is not tolerated.

Diana was born Sept. 3, 1990 in her homeland country of Tajikistan a mountainous landlocked country in central Asia. There native language is Tajik which is very similar to Persian. Tajikistan was once a part of the Soviet Union. But after their independence and a civil war that broke out in their country they have established political stability and foreign aid. Tajikistan sits between Afghanistan and China.

Zigangirova comes from a family of four. She is the eldest of two brothers Timur 14 and Rushan 11. She comes from a long line of success through-out her family. Her father serves their community as a dermatologist and specializes in terminally ill diseases. Her mother is a radiologist, and her grandmother practiced internal medicine for many years. Diana says that her family is the most important thing in her life. Students in Tajikistan are required to learn several languages in school. Diana remembers being in English classes since she was in first grade. She also speaks Tajik, Russian, English and Turkish. Diana says the most unusual thing about the U.S. is that the living circumstances are a little different then they are in her country. &#8220most people live in apartments in Tajikistan. Here almost every family has a house.” She says. She has noticed that schools here in America are a lot different then in her country. In Tajikistan school is set in a college like setting. They attend different classes every day instead of having the same classes for shorter periods of time. All students in Tajikistan are required to wear uniforms and dress more formal in an everyday lifestyle.

Tajikistan is primarily Muslim with few Christians. She also says, &#8220Most marriages in my country are arraigned by your parents, it's just part of my culture.”

Marriages in Tajikistan are set by status. Parents pick out husbands that they think will uphold good jobs, and be able to provide a good life for their daughters. Diana said she is enjoying her experience here in Woodlake and says she loves her host family very much. They have been gracious hosts and enjoy spending time with them. She hopes that one day she will be able to come back to Woodlake and bring her family.

Thanks to the Future Leaders Exchange Program funded by the U.S. government, Zigangirova has been able to have this experience. They provide all traveling expenses and a host family for the student. Students are responsible for their personal expenses.

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