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Kyrgyzstani student interns locally
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Kyrgyzstan resident Aitbek Amatov is getting a first-hand look at American life.

He is currently interning with the City of Covington every day except Fridays, when he goes to work for the Chamber of Commerce.

"It is nice to work in a field that lets you gain experience for the future," he said.

Amatov is studying banking at the American University in Central Asia. After he receives that degree, he wants to come to the United States to study at the University of Georgia to receive a master's in agricultural economics.

"The population is going up and the food supply is going down," he said. "It is becoming a global issue, and I want to be prepared."

After receiving his degree, Amatov wants to work here to gain some experience and then move back to Kyrgyzstan.

"All of my family and friends are there," he said. "It's just comfortable."

After finishing high school in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, his hometown, Amatov looked into a program created by Bill Bradley, a New Jersey senator, which promoted the exchange of international students.

"In Kyrgyzstan, most people graduate high school and go straight to the university," Amatov said. "I felt like I needed a year off to think about my future and prepare myself."

His first stop was Pinehurst, N.C., where he lived with a military family. He then moved in with his biology teacher, Joan Hilsman, who had a family reunion for Thanksgiving. There he met her sister, Jean Fowler, a Covington resident. After discussing their living situations, Amatov decided to move in with her and her husband, Rob.

"The smaller communities are so nice," Amatov said. "It is amazing to see everyone smiling and saying hi."

He spent his second semester of high school in the United States at Eastside High School, where he made friends and learned more about American culture.

"I really like the food here, even though it isn't healthy," Amatov said. "I gained about 45 pounds my first year. I wasn't eating more than other people, but most things here are fried. In Kyrgyzstan we often eat organic foods and soups."

Amatov returned to Kyrgyzstan and began his university-level schooling. He decided that he wanted to take the summer to come back to the United States, where he spent his time working Gone Away Farm, owned by the Fowlers.

"It was quite a challenge," he said. "I grew up in the city where there isn't much physical labor, especially in hot weather like Georgia's."

Although the labor was strenuous, Amatov believes it helped him realize things about himself.

"All I really did was read philosophy and work on the farm," he said. "Everyone should farm once in their life. It helps you mature a lot; it teaches you how to work and the value of money."

From his work to his social life, Amatov is pleased with and grateful for the experience he has had in the United States. He believes that all Americans should look at what they have and be thankful.

"There are so many opportunities for people to take advantage of, even with the economy as it is," he said.