The Athens Review
A 17-year-old girl from halfway around the world stood in front of the Athens Kiwanis Club on Tuesday, and perhaps made the audience see their own country a little clearer.
Oglunazik Orazgeldiyeva is an international student from Turkmenistan, a country of desert, camels, oil wells and about 6 million people. Her dreams of studying in the U.S. became a reality two months ago when she enrolled at Trinity Valley Community College.
After greeting the crowd in six languages, “Nazik” (as her American friends call her) told how she was able to go against tradition and leave her central Asian homeland for the U.S. to attend college.
“As a young citizen of my country, the only thing I was daydreaming was to get an education and be someone for my country,” Nazik” said. “I pictured myself in America, having friends from various countries, chatting with my Spanish friend, sharing homework with the Chinese friend and talking to American friends.”
Growing up in a land where the major languages are Turkmen and Russian, Nazik’s desire to learn English was sparked by hearing the song “Tired of Being Sorry” by Enrique Eglesias.
“It was a good song and was easy to understand,” Nazik said.
Her interest in English prompted her to begin studying in a larger city, a 2-hour round trip from her home. The classes increased her interest in the American culture, and gave birth to the desire to someday travel to that far-away land. Her dreams of a higher education were opposed to the traditions of her culture. After high school, young women of Turkmenistan are expected to get married and begin raising a family.
“I developed personally,” Nazik said. “I discovered my own values.”
Much of her extended family opposed her leaving for an education in the U.S., but her schoolteacher mother and craftsman father were supportive of her dream. Because of the warm climate in southern Turkmenistan, she began looking for a school in the southern U.S.
“Since I grew up in a little village, I came to think that the tiny corner of Athens and Trinity Valley College would be the place to pursue my dream,” Nazik said.
The first two months in America have been full of surprises and new experiences. Growing up, Nazik never saw such a variety of foods, and so many people with smiles.
“The school that I came from only had one computer,” Nazik said. “I came to Trinity Valley Community College, and every room has a computer. It seems like I lived in the 17th century and came forward four centuries in one night.”
Nazik is majoring in international relations. When she returns to her homeland, Nazik wants to show that there are more opportunities available for women of Turkmenistan.
“I want to make a difference in my country,” Nazik said. “I want to change those traditions.”