Bridging Cultures, Breaking Barriers: Emir Pusurov's American Dream

Authored By:


When asked to sum up his exchange experience in a few words, 18-year-old Emir Pusurov calls his time in America “my year of opportunities.”

Emir, a high school student from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, applied to spend a year in the United States hoping to try new foods, meet new people, and attend American high school. Little did he anticipate the transformative journey ahead, where he would emerge as a trailblazer – leading his school to first place in a national space challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

My year of opportunities

As a student in Kyrgyzstan, Emir had applied to the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, a U.S. government-sponsored initiative that provides scholarships for high school students from countries in Eurasia to spend an academic year in the United States. The program aims to promote mutual understanding, cultural exchange, and leadership development among young people. CIEE administers the FLEX program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.

FLEX participants live with American host families, attend a local high school, engage in community service, and participate in various cultural activities. Through immersion in American society, they gain a deeper understanding of U.S. culture and values while sharing their own culture with their host communities. 

I’d like to be an entrepreneur – I saw a lot of examples of creating that opportunity in America.

Emir was placed with a host family in Wichita Falls, Texas, and began attending a local high school, where he proved to be a highly ambitious student. Emir participated in various extracurricular activities, such as enrolling in his high school’s business courses and joining the marketing club.  This allowed him to bridge his culture and entrepreneurial ambitions with education, stating “I would like to do business in the future, I’d like to be an entrepreneur – I saw a lot of examples of creating that opportunity in America.”

Back in January, Emir submitted and presented a business plan to a district-wide business competition where he proposed a method to bring the historical Silk Road trade route (which runs through Osh, Emir’s hometown) into the digital age. His submission won first place.  

The next month, he led his school's triumph in the U.S. Department of Education's prestigious "Your Place in Space" challenge. With the help of his business teacher, Emir proposed his idea to his school, which they selected for submission to the national competition. And once again, his submission won first place. This time, it had beat out other proposals from around the nation.

Emir’s winning idea? To use recycled materials to create a satellite cybersecurity system, supporting safe networks and real-time data. Emir says that the idea emerged from his interest in cybersecurity and in creating sustainable business solutions. When he heard that his proposal was selected, Emir says that he “was so surprised, it was a really, really nice moment for me.” 

But it’s not all business in Wichita Falls. Emir’s other ‘American opportunities’ include sampling authentic southern BBQ, feeling the sticky Texas humidity for the first time, and celebrating Thanksgiving. “One of my favorite memories in America was seeing my host family come together to celebrate,” Emir recalls. He has truly embraced the practice of mutual cultural exchange through his interactions with his classmates, other exchange students, and especially, his host Dad, musing that he’s learned more about his native Kyrgyzstan by stepping into a new environment and sharing aspects of his culture that he did not think much about before arriving in the U.S. 

You will go back to your country, and you will understand how strong you’ve become.

During his year in American high school, Emir also visited Washington, D.C. for the Civic Education Workshop hosted by American Councils, a standout memory among many. During the event, a FLEX alum imparted a profound insight, remarking, “You will go back to your country, and you will understand how strong you’ve become.” 

Emir resonated deeply with these words, recognizing his personal growth and development. Reflecting on his journey, he affirmed, “The conditions in my country are totally different than America – it was a challenge for me to be flexible here, to adapt here.  I overcame this challenge, and so it gave me good personal skills. I'm eager to share that with my community back home.” 

Emir’s story demonstrates the mutual power of positive cultural exchange. 

As the academic year draws to a close, Emir, along with all our high school exchange students, will soon return home brimming with heightened intercultural awareness, stronger leadership abilities, a drive for problem-solving, and excitement for the next chapter in his life.

We are proud to include Emir as part of our FLEX program family.

CIEE changes lives, our alumni change the world.

Learn more about CIEE-sponsored grant programs