Summer 1997 (5.2)
The Tables Turned
Impressions of Azerbaijani Youth Studying Abroad
Dealing With Stress
by Muzhgan Nazarova
American society has many things that ours lacks. It seems Americans are somewhat "naive," but that very trait is what makes them more wholesome, clean and more willing to follow codes of honor. Some students in my country would think nothing of cheating on exams, projects or in situations of everyday life. In general, I don't find that to be the case here. There is more trust and a greater expectation of honesty.
It becomes very obvious, for example, when it comes to something like personal disease. In Azerbaijan, it's rare for people to tell even their best friends when they become seriously ill. They're afraid someone might use this information against them. But here when people feel close to you, they disclose everything about themselves, even negative things about their families.
Sometimes I feel so close that I forget that I'm in a different country - people are so warm, open-hearted and supportive here. It didn't happen immediately when I arrived, but did evolve gradually. In the end, it seems to me that human beings are the same everywhere.
Regarding the things that concern me, I was shocked and saddened to discover that so many young people here have nervous and psychiatric disorders. Even some of my closest friends have been taking anti-depressants for years, even though they're only 20-years-old. Something must be wrong in a society when physicians prescribe medicine for patients to take for the rest of their lives just because they get a bit stressed out. Such drastic solutions! It seems strange that young people have no one around to lean on or to advise them. Some students I know walk around spaced out like robots because they've become so dependent on these prescription drugs.
I understand that people in this country have a lot of stress. They live a more luxurious life than we do, but, unfortunately, they have to pay for it-not only with their money, but with their health. I think our way of living in Azerbaijan has made us very strong and resilient. We've learned how to cope and how to rely on people around us, despite the amount of stress we have to deal with.
Americans take so much in life for granted. Could anyone here live on the $10-20 per month like so many of us do in Azerbaijan? Everyone here would die, as they are used to luxury cars, a nice house, pets and a wide selection of clothes and food. So few can comprehend the hardships that we have to deal with on a daily basis in Azerbaijan.
I'm also worried about alcohol consumption among undergraduates. Every Friday, the parties begin, and there's always a lot of drinking. This, in turn, leads to violence. Of course, not everyone is involved, but the problem is serious enough to be a major issue on campus.
What else would I not want to take back to Azerbaijan? The violence that dominates so many aspects of this culture. I wouldn't want my children to be exposed to it.
What would I wish Americans could learn from us? To be closer to each other and to do good deeds and actions without thinking of personal gain-just to do these things for the sake of goodness and with genuineness from the depths of their hearts.
Graduate student in Library Science
Edmund Muskie Fellowship
University of North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
From Azerbaijan International (5.2) Summer 1997.
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All rights reserved.