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Exchange student living his 'childhood dream' at HHS

Alisher Usmonov, 17, is an exchange student from Tajikistan. He said he's very excited to be in America this year, sharing his culture, and learning about America. Submitted photo.

For 17-year-old exchange student Alisher Usmonov, visiting the U.S. is a dream come true.

"It's amazing to be in America," he said. "It was my childhood dream, you know, and I tried my best, studied hard ... before coming here, I applied for (a) scholarship, and my dream came true."

Usmonov is from Panjakent, Tajikistan. He said he dreamed of experiencing American life and American culture. He said his goal is to "share my culture, represent my country to American people, because, like no one knows about where I come from," he said. "So every day I'm trying to tell people a lot of information about my country, and try to find something new from America."

He's heard a lot of stereotypes, he said, but what he's seen of America is completely different.

He said he'd like to break stereotypes.

Usmonov said he's glad he came to Hudson.

Some of his favorite things he's found in Hudson have included ice cream at Knokes and walking around the city.

Before the weather turned chilly, Usmonov was very much looking forward to winter, and trying winter sports: skiing, hockey and ice skating, to name a few.

"I want to experience all of this," he said.

He arrived on Aug. 10. He said he was cold when he arrived.

"But every day I am feeling myself adapting to this weather," he said.

He's done a lot of fun things with his host family as well, including visiting the Renaissance Festival, the UW-River Falls Rodeo in River Falls, hiking to the the waterfall at Willow River State Park, and golfing with his extended host family.

Usmanov's host family, Jim O'Kelly, Annette McNallan, and kids Liam and Tieg, have enjoyed hosting him.

Jim O'Kelly said Usmonov is the fourth student their family has hosted. He thinks it's good for Liam, 17, and Teig, 14, to experience more of the world.

"And realize it's a lot bigger than just Hudson," Jim said.

He added that the teens all get along very well.

"He's intelligent. He's ... kind of quiet, but he's an observer of everything that's going on around him, I think," Jim said. "And I think he's eager to learn and experience things.

"We're happy to have him and hope he's enjoying his time here too."

Usmonov has enjoyed sharing his culture with his host family. He brought a present of traditional clothing items from Tajikistan for them. He's also made some Tajikistani foods for his host family, which Usmonov said they really enjoyed.

He's also tried a lot of foods here in America as well.

"I like specially tacos, and I tried McDonald's first time in my life," he said. "It was real amazing. I had a Big Mac."

He's also enjoyed homecoming week, from dressing up differently each day, to going to the homecoming football game.

"It's unforgettable, because I met a lot of friends there, and we all were cheering," he said. "It was really fun. It was my first time watching American football."

He said he thought the game was a bit complicated but really fun. He's watched Packers games every Sunday with his host family.

Usmonov also practiced with the soccer team here, and biked with the St. Croix Composite and Hudson Mountain Bike Team, and planned to join the swim team. He's also done some work with theatre.

Usmonov is an active volunteer at home.He has continued that in America by volunteering his time with Youth Action Hudson.

"I'm really trying to do my best because in the end of year, we'll get a certificate from the President of the United States," Usmonov said. "I'm really excited about it."

He's also excited to get a chance to do some traveling with his host family, and hopes to visit the capital through a program called Civic Education Workshop.

After the school year, Usmonov hopes to apply for university, though he's not quite sure where.

He said in addition to language, he's learned a lot about himself here.

"I'm learning some of my skills like speaking, leadership skills, being more flexible, trying to meet new challenges with a positive view," he said. "I'm 100 percent positive with all new challenges."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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