By Mujiba Abdurazoqova ’18 (Gharm, Tajikistan, placed by ASSE in Lansing, MI)  

The sun shone brightly as the alumni of the FLEX and ALEX programs gathered for a picnic at Botanic Garden Dushanbe to celebrate Tajikistan’s 32nd anniversary of Independence. The event aimed to reconnect old friends while providing an opportunity for alumni to introduce their children to the cherished memories of their exchange experience. With 16 alumni in attendance spanning generations 2013 to 2023, the day was marked by an abundance of delicious food, engaging games, jovial conversations, and spirited sports. 

As the attendees arrived at the picnic venue, old friendships were instantly reignited, and long-separated fellow alumni from the same generations embraced each other with warm smiles. The camaraderie among these former alumni was palpable, showcasing the enduring bonds forged during their exchange year and years of being an alumni. Stories of shared experiences and unforgettable moments filled the air, igniting waves of laughter and reminiscence. The alumni expressed their delight at the chance to catch up and reconnect, bridging the gap between different program years. The event served as a platform for intergenerational exchange, enabling the sharing of professional achievements, personal growth stories, and insights gained since completing FLEX and ALEX programs. Such interactions allowed alumni to learn from one another, broaden their horizons, and strengthen their connections. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of the alumni picnic was the diversity among attendees. With alumni spanning ten program generations, each participant brought a unique perspective and life experience to the gathering. For example, Mavzuna Sharipova ’15 shared that being an alumna was an advantage in her career. “It provided me with a strong network of contacts and connections, which proved beneficial in job searches, mentorship, and collaborations,” said Mavzuna. For the last seven years, she has been working in American Councils in various roles. 

Alumni also enjoyed simply reflecting on their favorite FLEX memories. Sanoat Dodoboeva ’17 shared, “One of my favorite memories from my exchange year was joining the high school basketball cheerleading squad. I made new friends, learned about basketball, and achieved my goal of becoming a cheerleader. The coach and team captain were kind and patient, teaching me everything. I enjoyed practicing new stunts and cheers. As a cheerleader, I traveled to different cities for tournaments, making the experience even more memorable. I’m grateful to the FLEX program for this transformative year in my life.” 

Each participant’s journey, like Sanoat’s cheerleading experience or Mavzuna’s career growth, highlighted the enduring impact of exchange programs in shaping global citizens and fostering lifelong connections.  

This event also demonstrated how alumni are passing their FLEX experiences and values on to the next generation. Farangi Hotam ’09 shared that by involving her children in alumni events, she provides them with a valuable opportunity to engage in American culture. “Through participation in these events,” said Farangi, “children also develop an understanding of the importance of community service and giving back. This exposure to various aspects of society helps to broaden their perspectives and shape them into well-rounded individuals.” 

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