By Sofia Deleon, Talon Staff Reporter
The majority of high school students decide to stay local when it comes to their education. Exploration only becomes a necessity when it’s time to choose a college or move away. Few students decide to study abroad during their high school education. Junior Alina Watt, however, has been exploring the world since she was about three years old. During this time, she’s discovered herself, found friends, and developed a new perspective on the world.
Exploration of the world while managing an everyday life is often desired. Watt had to travel because of her dad getting a new job. During that time, she visited Greece, Italy, France, and Finland. Although she doesn’t remember much when traveling to those countries, visiting Finland was her favorite. “I stayed in a very pristine place that looked a lot like Oregon,” explains Watt. “I went to a forest and picked mushrooms and made food with them. It was a very clean place, very green. In the winter, I rode in a sled that was pulled by dogs, and I got to see ice sculptures and fly down snowy hills in sleds.”
Watt also used to live in Russia. She came back to the United States when she was in sixth grade. “I’ve stayed up to date to what’s been going on in Russia through a Russian radio station and through my relatives,” she states. Although she’s distant from Russia, she still feels attached to the people of the country. “For me personally, when I lived there, I loved it. I was young, so I didn’t listen to any politics or pay attention to the system of the government. I only paid attention to the people around me. I feel like, deep down, I’m mostly Russian. They’re very loyal people, and it doesn’t take that long to become friends [with them]. Once you’re friends, you’re friends for life.” For Watt, the company was enjoyable, and she loved the Russian culture. “I like their tradition of hot tea, and with their baked goods and jams that are homemade. There are many cultural aspects of Russia that I enjoy. Physically, Russia has given me an understanding that judging a whole nation/culture by its economic state and by its political state is wrong, and because on a personal level, rarely reflect what’s really going on.”
Watt’s daily life was much different in Russia than it is in the United States. “In Russia, school would end at two, sometimes three, and I would go home. Life was very much outside of the house, unlike Americans, who mostly live indoors. I would come home, do homework, and my friends would call me from outside, and we would hang out all day, walking around,” she compares. However, when she moved to the U.S., her daily life changed. “In Kansas, my schedule was going to the YMCA all the time to escape the heat, working out. In Oregon, since I’m almost graduating, I don’t have much time to do things except focus on school and hike. Oregon has given me the chance to explore and go hiking and join a summer program to connect with the community.”
Watt’s political perspective of Russia changed as she grew up. “I grew up and viewed it from a perspective of an American, with all the freedoms you get from being American. As an American, I realize how much corruption there is in Russia and how many human rights are being violated. However, from my friends and family, when I asked them how they’re doing, all of them seem oblivious to the problems and are happy about what’s going on. Most of them blame Americans for falsely interpreting their culture,”Watt explains. Living in two politically and economically different places has made her think about how both can shape a person’s mindset and view on the world.
Despite being a traveler, Watt is an excellent student who loves learning. Senior Shaelyn Francis first met Watt when she was a sophomore. “I started speaking Latin to her, and she started speaking Russian to me,” Francis mentions. The Latin was only meant as a joke to Watt, but once Watt began speaking fluent Russian, Francis was caught by surprise. They quickly became friends.””We had to be separated [in class] because we were laughing too much.” Francis also has a great outlook on Watt when it comes to friendship and being a student in general. “She’s entirely positive. I don’t think she’s ever been negative. She laughs so much. I like when she laughs, because then I start laughing. She’s entirely a great, funny person, like a bumblebee, because she’s always buzzing.” Francis says.
Mandarin-Chinese teacher Yi Zhang praises Watt for being an awesome student. Learning languages comes naturally to Watt, so she excels in that class. “I really like her optimistic character and her positive attitude in my class,” Zhang quips. “She’s always prepared to get new things and we talk a lot when we have a walk during class break. She asked me things about China and told me things about Russia. She even taught me some Russian! She works well in my class independently and gets along with everybody. I enjoy her presence so much!” Clearly, Watt works well with others, regardless of being a student or teacher.
Traveling isn’t just a physical experience. When traveling, you understand how others see the world and how they react to the difference that separates people and nations. Social media, movies, and popular culture all put different pictures into the minds of people from other countries. “I always learn something new, and I see that my perception of people changes because people are different everywhere, and it’s different depending on where they live,” Watt clarifies. ”Travelling is a quicker way to experience life, because sitting in one place you don’t always realize what you have and what is changing around you. With traveling, you get to know yourself and what your life is about.”