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Students Travel to Russia - Teenagers notice many similarities

Eagle Staff Writer Kyndal Henicke said Wednesday that one thing stood out about her trip to Kazan, Russia - teenagers are mostly the same whether they live in the United States or across the Pacific Ocean.

"There were way more similarities in the way we live than differences," Henicke said, explaining that Russian teenagers like to do the same things that she and her friends do every day. "We're all the same." The 16-year-old A&M Consolidated High School junior was among 11 local high school students who recently traveled to Kazan, Bryan-College Station's Russian sister city. The group returned Sunday after spending two weeks abroad. Each year, local students take part in the exchange program, which is sponsored by the Bryan and College Station city councils. Each council pays $5,000 annually to support the program. The students spent $1,000 each to travel to Russia. Each was assigned to a Russian high school student and stayed with that student's family.

In October, the Russian students will come to Bryan-College Station to experience two weeks in the life of an American teenager.

While in Russia, the group toured museums, churches, mosques, Kremlin buildings and even Kazan City Hall - a building most Russians are not allowed to enter. The American students applied for the program and were selected after being interviewed by a committee from the Sister Cities program. Other participants were Stephen Nock, Kyle Kenerley, Harrison Balog, Laura Brown, Emily Morgan, Jane McKenzie, Natalie Clark, Jessica Tinker, Dyle Hobson and Dayly Dickinson. Dickinson, a junior at A&M Consolidated High School, said Russia was much more modern than she had imagined it to be. "In history, we learn about Soviet times and how bad it was," the 16-year-old said. "But it was a mixture of that. On the outside, buildings would not be kept up as well, but on the inside, they were always really nice." Nock, also a Consol junior, said the hard work of Russian citizens was evident in their efforts to modernize the country. "Russia is probably one of the greatest places I've ever been," he said. "Everywhere you look, you see development and how the country is growing. People are always busy working and trying to get things done to improve the country." McKenzie, a 16-year-old Consol junior, said she had always wanted to travel abroad, and the program offered the perfect opportunity. McKenzie, who is 3 feet,6 inches tall, said her host family had never seen a little person before. "I learned a lot of new things about their culture, and it was an eye-opener for me," McKenzie said. "If I hadn't had this opportunity, I know I wouldn't have gone. Now I want to go back." Most of the students, like Henicke, said the most valuable aspect of the trip was the interaction with teenagers just like them. "[It wasn't] just going on vacation and seeing all the tourist spots," Henicke said. "We got to do that but at the same time, we got to make 12 new friends and see how they lived. Instead of having an outsider's view, we got an insider's view to how families lived in Russia."

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