Meerim, 30, is an English Language Learning (ELL) student at VAL from Kyrgyzstan. She speaks three languages: Kyrgyz, Russian (Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet Republic) and is learning English. She was born near Issyk-Kul, home to the seventh-deepest lake in the world. Issyk-Kul means “warm lake” in Kyrgyz, an apt name for a saline lake in the Northern Tian Shan Mountains that never freezes, despite severe winters!
“I came to the United States because I wanted a better life,” Meerim said. “I am a Muslim and I like to be independent and I can earn more money here,” Meerim said. “Muslim women in my country have fewer rights. I was told I’d have to marry, stay home, cook, and take care of children. I arrived in Vermont on March 7, 2020, just before the (COVID-19) lockdown.”
Meerim worked in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, as a manager at Neman Pharmaceuticals. She holds dual Master’s Degrees from her home country in Pharmacy from Bishkek Medical College and Business Management from Bishkek Humanities University.
Meerim currently cleans houses in Vermont. She is a dedicated ELL student, preparing to begin studies in fall 2022 for a new career in Information Technology.
“I appreciate that here in the U.S. I am free—I can do what I want, go where I want,” Meerim said. “I like to travel; I visited Chicago, New York City, Utah, and Arizona with my sister who also lives in Vermont.”
“Leigh (VAL ELL Teacher) is so nice,” Meerim said. “I take online classes with her. She always checks our homework. She is so helpful. She tells us we can call her anytime or text her. She helped me a lot with my English. She also taught me about the history of the U.S. It’s interesting for me, I didn’t know before about the Civil War and about race relations.”
“I’ve never had an English student quite like Meerim,” her English teacher Leigh said. “She has signed up for every possible course I offer within her time schedule, and pursues each one vigorously. She is often the first to show up in class, has mastered online resource challenges, and is always cheerful and helpful with other students. I can predict Meerim will go far because her thirst to learn is unquenchable. I am so glad Vermont Adult Learning could be here for her.”
Asked to identify “one item” she brought with her from Kyrgyzstan, Meerim held up a koshma, a small, brown and white, sheeps’ wool, felted Kyrgyz carpet, a powerful symbol of her Central Asian heritage. The piece harkens to her people’s previous, centuries-old, nomadic livestock farming traditions. Rugs are of practical as well as artistic value to nomadic peoples—they are, literally, laid on the earthen floor of a yurt, creating a buffer between the often cold, frozen soil and inhabitants.
New Americans like Meerim bring their stories, their culture and their ambitions, strengthening the fabric of our Vermont communities. Meerim also brought a recipe for Besh Barmak (translated as “Five Fingers”), a national dish consisting of spaghetti with a lot of meat.
“Vermont people are so polite,” Meerim said. “People help me in the store, at work.”
Learn more about Vermont Adult Learning at www.vtadultlearning.org