Breaking Boundaries: From Pakistan to MinnesotaTonight we bring you the first part in our Breaking Boundaries series. We'll meet an exchange student from Pakistan who's finding out what life is like in small town USA.
Tonight we bring you the first part in our Breaking Boundaries series. We'll meet an exchange student from Pakistan who's finding out what life is like in small town USA.
16-year-old Shahzor Memon has spent his senior year in several different states. Now, he's living with a host family in Minnesota, where he'll soon be graduating from Crookston High School. I spoke with Shahzor, his friends, teachers and host family, who explain just how this experience is breaking boundaries for all of them.
It's just another day for these Crookston High School students. But for Shahzor Memon, every day in America is a new experience.
Shahzor: "The first time I came here I just felt free. This world is so big and there are no boundaries. It felt so big to me. It might be normal to others, but whenever I walk out of the neighborhood, wherever I go, it means so much to me. The trees, the sky and the houses and the streets. They have so much life to them and it brings happiness to my life."
Last September, Shahzor traveled miles from his home country of Pakistan to become an exchange student in the states.
Shazor: "When I was flying from Minneapolis to North Dakota I was like oh my god where am I going."
Since then he's adjusted well, making new friends left and right.
Lydia, school friend: "It was a little hard at first, like oh who is this kid. But now we all kind of go oh there's Shahzor. We have so much fun."
Barb Andring, Shahzor's host mom, admits she did have some reservations about having a Middle Eastern teenager live in her home."
Barb: "That's kind of the reason you do it, to try to challenge your preconceived ideas on what a country is like."
Ideas were challenged, and boundaries broken.
Barb: "Pakistanis are not the terrorists that a lot of us think they are. He's about as peace-loving as you can imagine."
Lydia: "He accepts how we are and we accept how he is."
Kayla Strayer: "How are you breaking boundaries?"
Shazor: "Now that I've come so far, I overcome barriers in my mind. Now I see things in a different way."
For the next few weeks, Shahzor will continue living like an American teen...eating lunch with friends, studying, walking from class to class, surfing the internet, doing chores and even going to the prom.
Lydia: "He was at prom with us and he looked super good. He was rocking the dance floor and trying to get everyone to dance."
As his senior year is coming to an end, the Pakistani teen explains what he's learned from all of these typical American experiences.
Shazor: "Accepting diversity is the number one, and community service is number two. People should serve other people. The third is being normal. There's so much stability here that I've observed. There's everything proper and I would like to bring that back home."
Kayla Strayer: "Do you want to leave?"
Shazor: "I had so much freedom here. I mean I can walk on streets without being escorted out by any maids or anyone. The first time I could actually feel the weather and I saw snow. It's such a good experience. I mean it's a different style of living a life. I got a chance to be a normal, typical American teenager."
After he graduates next month, Shahzor hope to join a summer learning program in Spain. Next Wednesday we'll meet a man from the West African country of Liberia. He now lives and works in the Red River Valley and recently started a non-profit to raise money for children of his home country.