Where are you from? 

I am from Russia.

What was your childhood like?

I was a happy child.  My parents spoiled me.  I was a single child, so I got a lot of presents.  They took care of my education and had tutors since I was seven.  That’s when I started to learn English.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I used to study in Georgia, but I was offered a larger scholarship to attend Walsh University, so I transferred.

What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those change?

My flight was really exhausting.  It was about two days and when I got here I was just happy to arrive.  We were driving through Atlanta and I saw all the buildings. I was really impressed, because we didn’t have anything like that at home.  It was like a movie.  Then I lived in Gainsville, which was a small city.  That was not like a movie at all, but I liked it.  There was a lot of fast food, which I didn’t like, but I found things I liked.  I had a hard time understanding the Southern dialect, but I eventually understood it.  I missed my family, but I was never really homesick. Things have only gotten better here.  I see so many opportunities.

What challenges did you face transitioning here?

International students don’t really have much support from their families because they are so far away.  They have to completely adapt their lifestyles, including food, culture and language.  For me, it wasn’t that hard because Russia isn’t that different and I have traveled to many European countries.  Understanding my professors was hard, and learning to make decisions that will influence my life for myself was challenging.

What is your occupation? Are you a member of a sorority, fraternity, or any other civic or social organization?

I am student at Walsh University.  I am a student athlete playing tennis.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I really liked studying in a private school.  You feel more welcomed because there are people there to help you.  They provide services for you and take care of you.  There are also more Russians at Walsh, which has helped me to adjust.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I like cooking our traditional food because I really miss it.  Other than that I wouldn’t say that we have a lot of traditions. I speak Russian with my teammates.  I don’t think it’s about traditions these days as much as it is about mentality.  We celebrate our own holidays together.  We have a Russian Christmas in January 7, so now I have two Christmases now.

What do you love about Cleveland?

If I stay here I would love to get a job in Ohio.  It’s not about the place, but about all the people and connections I have made here.  

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Being an international person is challenging because we all have different backgrounds and language barriers. I know many people who are really homesick and they have to stay here because of their circumstances.  When people from the US help me I feel really appreciative and I don’t know how to thank them.  Receiving that support is really appreciated, and it’s important for immigrants and refugees to know that American people want them here and to see their talent.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

It helps you get rid of stereotypes.  It allows you to see people from different places in a new perspective.  I have been to many countries and, in America, there are many negative stereotypes.  In order to eliminate that and get rid of xenophobia, it is important to travel abroad.  It also broadens your own horizons.