My Life Before and After America

Before leaving Macedonia, Jovana Stojanova documented her thoughts about going to the United States. Was everything she heard about America true? Read some of her initial fears and how she’s changed as a person after being in the U.S.

I consider myself very lucky to had been selected as a participant of the YES (Youth, Exchange and Study) program, which is fully funded by the U.S. Department of State and has the goal of promoting friendship and mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the rest of the world. When I first applied I thought,

“Man, one year in the U.S., for free!? When do I leave?”

If I only knew how much bigger and greater it all was.  Today my life is clearly divided before America (B.A) and after America (A.A), but to show you all how much this experience truly changed my life, I would like to take you back in time and introduce you to:

Jovana B.A. Aug 18, 2010

 Hi. My name is Jovana and I am from Macedonia, a small country in the middle of the Balkans. I’m gonna be leaving for America in a few days. Gees, I don’t know… it’s kinda scary, you know? I’ve never been away from my family before, and I’ve had the same schoolmates my whole life. I’ve also heard people say that America is not that great anyway; capitalism, democracy, McDonalds, High School Musical, you know… and I’m not so sure how I can function around people from different religions either. Duh, everyone knows Orthodox Christianity is the only true one, and that is how all my friends and family are. Plus, we already live in a democratic society, I think. And what if I meet someone homosexual? – My dad says that’s dangerous. Plus, everyone who eats at McDonalds is fat. I don’t want to get fat. I see it in movies all the time.  OMG, what if all this is a part of their plan? What if they try to assimilate me while I’m there? – I don’t know what to do… Mom, make me something to eat, ok?

Fast forward.

Jovana A.A. Aug 18, 2012

international student voice magazine jovana
“…only in the most democratic, diverse and beautiful country I have ever been to; only in America.”

I am an Orthodox Christian, but I have many friends who are Muslims (Shi’ah and Sunni), Protestant, Lutheran, Atheist. I even have a Hindu friend. My friend from Japan, Yamamoto, believes in both Shinto and Vajrauana Buddhism. I love learning about our similarities and differences, and I respect their religions as much as I respect mine.

Democracy, by definition, is a form of government in which the people select their leader(s) in free and fair elections, and then the leader(s) rule according to the will of the people. That is not the system that is in practice in Macedonia, but somehow only a few realize this. I am among them.

Being homosexual is a natural thing. God created us all different for a reason. I have homosexual friends, and they are amazing. I love them all and I respect their sexual orientation as much as they respect mine.

Eating healthy is a priority for many Americans. Fast food restaurants are not the only places where Americans eat, and all of them are certainly not obese. Sometimes people in other countries like my own, including myself, eat more junk food than the Americans. But many people don’t see this. I am not one of them.

The only way I can explain the person today who is writing this article, is by using the Yin and Yang concept; two seemingly contrary, but complementary forces are interconnected and interdependent in one body, giving rise to each other to create – me; a young adult ready to begin college, gain the necessary education, and make the necessary changes. And all of this can be learned the proper way only in the most democratic, diverse and beautiful country I have ever been to; only in America.

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