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My American Experience: Denis Albu, Moldova

This summer, CHI invited its USA Work & Travel participants to take part in a contest to help show off their program spirit. Participants were asked to submit an essay, video or photo slideshow that best demonstrated their personal ‘American Experience’.  In their own words and images, here is what this year’s CHI USA Work & Travel alumni have experienced during their summer in America.

Essay by Denis Albu, Moldova, worked in Tahoe City, CA

My American experience started on the 18th of June, when the plane took off from Amsterdam and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. I could follow on the monitor every inch getting closer to the USA. Still, I was feeling the trip as a dream. For the first time I realized I’m in America when we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, as we were heading from San Francisco to Truckee. Looking through the bus window I barely managed to see Alcatraz and the first thought in my mind was: “…so America does exist…”. When I got to my destination – Tahoe City, the first thing, which I definitely won’t forget for a long time, was the picture of a little bear searching for some food in a trash basket. I was astonished, but excited. I did not take any picture as it got scared and ran away, but the frame remained clearly in my mind. All and above, from day one, I noticed how American people are so much different from our culture – and that is – the friendly attitude and smile on every face I encountered. I was delighted.

During my almost two months in America, I learned valuable lessons from every person I interacted with. The American experience I obtained is way more precious for me than the money everyone strives to make. It’s not about money. It’s about attitude; and it’s not about how everyone sees you, but how you see and accept life.

Mr. Angus, the owner of the place I found to stay, received me warmly. He and his wife, Cathy, became my icon of how Americans could be. From the very beginning and for the rest of my stay at their lodge I wouldn’t be able to find a suitable word to describe their nobility and kindness towards me and everyone else. On a party they held on the 10th of July, Mr. Angus and I chatted for some long hours and the words that marked me that night were: “Denis, in my philosophy, I do good to people, so someday they will do that in turn for someone else. Not to me, but anyone else”. Going to sleep I kept repeating these words in my mind.

Twelve days later was my birthday. I invited everyone I knew till then. I had a strange feeling. I was sad. I decided to make a small party. I didn’t really know who would and who would not show up on my birthday but I made sure to have everything prepared. It was 9PM when students, same as me, started to show up after their long day of work. I turned 23 and at 12 AM there were 23 people singing me “Happy Birthday” in three different languages. They all wished me something. My only toast of that night was: “I want to drink this glass of wine for my parents, who gave me the opportunity to come to America and meet you all”. Saying this, the night went on and I was very happy that everything turned out to be so good in the end.

During my first month in America I searched for a second job. Applying to more than 20 jobs and not getting any answer I got somehow disappointed. On my day off I went to the beach with the thought “let it be as it will be”. And that thought made me calm. Lying on the beach I noticed an old man walking with his big dog. Following their little games on the beach I could not resist to approach and ask him to take me a picture with his dog. The old man does not have children, but he treats his dog as a child and a friend. After that we started to talk about Blue – the dog – and Mr. Dave – Blue’s owner – told me he has a restaurant on the beach not far away from my first job and proposed me to come the next day and see him. That’s how we became colleagues and friends. We used to go hiking in the mountains and walk along the beach with Blue.

I have less than 6 weeks to be in America. And the last two weeks I will definitely take a trip around all the California – from Reno, down to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon, Los Angeles and everything between L.A. and San Francisco where my plane will wait for me; and when I will wake up home I know my first thought and words to my parents will be: “… mom, dad, I just got an American Dream…”.

Being in America, I’ve acknowledged how cultures may differ from every piece of the world. My life in America gave me more confidence in myself and opened me new visions towards life. At least, I know for sure what I will be doing next in my life: I always had a special pleasure for helping people, and being helpful here, in America, gave me a sense of what I can do more. I can do more for myself and I can do better for the people that surround me. I want to share my inspiration with my fellow-citizens. I want to create. I want to change my people. I want to give them hope. I want to build a dream in my country.

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