New Country, New Opportunities

Taking chances in America


Clare Johnston

Karina Sharafutdivnova (11) plays guitar during her end of season show for her “Grunge” Band. Guitar is another activity she had always wanted to do, but didn’t start until moving to the U.S. “My step dad plays guitar and when I came here, he was playing and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that sounds cool. I want to do that.’” says Sharafutdinova.

Clare Johnston, Reporter

Imagine picking up your whole life and moving to another country, having to start new with no one you know besides your parents, and barely knowing the language. This is the scary reality for many teenagers who immigrate from their home country. For Karina Sharafutdinova (11), moving to the U.S. from Russia had been anticipated for a while when her mom married her American stepdad. She was excited, and moving to the U.S. has introduced many new and beneficial elements to her life.

The environment is so much better,” Sharafutdinova said. “I feel more welcomed here. So it was not like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to move here. It’ll suck.'”

Sharafutdinova’s struggles to adjusting include communication troubles when she knew very little English.

I took English in Russia as a second language,” Sharafutdinova said. “So I knew the basic grammar, how to write and say ‘Hello, my name is Karina.’ I knew that, but I could barely speak at all. It was hard for me to understand other students with the language barrier; some words or some phrases are only American. I had also been learning British English, which is different from American English.”

Moving to the U.S. has opened the door for many opportunities that Sharafutdinova didn’t have in Russia. Since moving here, not only has she joined set crew in the theatre department and is hoping to become head carpenter next year, but also takes guitar lessons and is in a Joan Jett band through School of Rock. However, she hasn’t always had access to participate in these activities.

“I always liked building and construction, but I never even had a chance to do that,” Sharafutdinova said. “In Russia, it was a lot ‘Oh, you’re a girl. You can’t do that.” 

She also shares how she feels about the differences between the Russian and American school system. In Russia, her future was predetermined for her, but now she gets to choose what she wants to do based on her interests.

“In Russia it was a lot about, ‘I’m gonna graduate, I’m gonna go to this university and I will become a doctor,’ not because I want to, but because they earn money,” Sharafutdinova said.

Now, she has grown to enjoy classes, especially science, and has much more interest in learning.

“Then, I came here and I saw the difference between how they teach in different ways, and now my science classes are my favorite classes,” Sharafutdinova said. “Now I actually want to go into the scientific or medicine field, not because of the money or because of my parents, but more because I really, really enjoy it.”

Karina Sharafutdinova (11) works during her Newspaper class on Nov 25. Newspaper is another class that she loves to participate and learn in.
(Clare Johnston)

Sharafutdinova has even become passionate about studying Alzheimer’s, saying she wanted to learn more about it after hearing of the disease on Grey’s Anatomy. 

“That was the show where I started hearing more about Alzheimer’s,” Sharafutdinova said. “Then, I started more scientific research and how it affects your body, how you can get it, and all the information about how there’s no treatment for Alzheimer’s and it’s a very big deal.”