Anastasia Aksenova’s mother will be at her daughter’s graduation from Pellissippi State Technical Community College on May 2.
Unlike most parents attending the ceremony, though, she’ll have to leave home nearly a full day before the event to get there on time.
Anastasia Aksenova’s mother, Inna, is flying in from Russia to watch Anastasia cross the stage and receive an Associate of Science degree.
The 23-year-old Aksenova grew up 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, from Moscow. She is completing her second associate’s degree at Pellissippi State. The first degree, in 2006, was in business. This time, her area of interest is biology.
She says her love affair with the U.S., and East Tennessee in particular, began when she was 18. That was when she came to the area with a work-study group of about 100 Russian youth. She worked as a machine operator at an area plant.
“It was hard, really hard, but it was fun because I came with my friends,” she said.
“I went back to Russia and graduated from college,” she said, “then I came back here with a work and travel program. I was a front desk clerk at a Family Inn for three months. Then I became a Pellissippi student.
“It’s all different here,” she said. “The people here prefer to drive versus walking, because Knoxville is a small city versus a big city. Food is different. Culture’s different.”
Throughout this academic year, Aksenova has worked as an international student ambassador at the college, a paid position that assists during events. She also is current president of Pellissippi State’s International Club.
“I think that International Club is really important for international students,” she said, “especially for those who just came to U.S. or came here alone without their families. Because in our club everybody has an opportunity to make friends from all over the world. In our club we have people from Russia, Vietnam, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iran, Germany and Brazil.”
Pellissippi State’s enrollment includes just under 200 students representing other countries.
“I also work here as a math tutor,” she said. “I teach students myself. I really enjoy it because I see how students can progress—I see I can help.”
It’s no wonder Aksenova was cited for Outstanding Academic Achievement Among International Students at the college’s recent Academic Awards ceremony. She also is a 2008 member of Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges.
Aksenova is very positive about her experience at the college.
“I really like it, because the system of education here is totally different than Russia. The professors here are more likable. They treat students here as on the same level.”
In fact, overall she seems to enjoy life in the U.S.
“People, they’re always willing to help,” she said. “They’re always nice, no matter where you come from…. If you try really hard, you can reach your goals here.”
Aksenova says after graduation she plans first to work in her field for a few months, then to transfer to Tusculum College in Greeneville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology. She eventually wants to work in biological research but says she hasn’t decided whether she’ll stay in the U.S. or go back to Russia.