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Journey to a new beginning

Aktai Mametjanov’s life changes forever after leaving Kyrgyzstan to the United States.
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Courtesy of Aktai Mametjanov
Aktai and his team after they had won their soccer game.

Going from a small school knowing all 50 kids per classroom to a high school with about 3,000 kids, not knowing who anyone is was a big change, and he did not know what that change would bring to him. Aktai Mametjanov is from a country in Central Asia called Kyrgyzstan. He was able to move to the United States after winning the lottery, which gave him the opportunity to apply for a green card. Aktai’s innocence and cluelessness to the world at just 10 years old prevented him from even thinking about what leaving Kyrgyzstan would mean or how leaving his friends and family would feel.

“I was too young to think about that,” Aktai said. “I was just thinking ‘where are we going?’”

When Aktai got older, he realized what it meant to leave his family and friends. He sometimes wishes he had never moved, but he knows he has many more opportunities in the U.S. than he did in Kyrgyzstan. He does hope to go back one day, not only to see his family, but to see the beautiful mountains and the nature of Kyrgyzstan. Although it was hard for him to leave, his mom thought otherwise.

“It wasn’t difficult [leaving] at all, maybe I was missing my family a little bit and was bored because I didn’t know anyone here or the language, but it was pretty easy to adapt,” Aktai’s mom Cholponai Kokoeva said.

Aktai himself does miss his family and old friends, but he knew he had to move forward like his mom did and look at his new opportunities and goals while living in the U.S. Although, he only had one goal in mind.

“I want to go pro in soccer, that’s the only thing” Aktai said.

Aktai knew from the second he started walking he wanted to be a professional soccer player. He found many different ways to persevere through sports and life in general when moving to the U.S.

“I would say what’s kind of unique to him is that even if there’s a mistake that happens, it may look like he’s upset and bummed about what happened, but the next time the ball comes to him and the next time he makes a decision, he’s full force,” soccer coach Hunter Labas said.

He began playing with his five friends at a small private school soccer field. A coach had seen them playing at the school and told them to play in a tournament against his team for medals, to which Aktai’s team agreed. After they had practiced for a day, they decided they were ready for the game. The first half ended with a 4-1 score with Aktai’s team of five winning. Soon after the first half, they had realized this was an unfair game. The other teams coach had wanted to win his team free medals to feel good about themselves; however, Aktai would not back down. They ended up winning 5-3.

“We were happy like we won the World Cup, we started screaming and having fun and started singing songs,” Aktai said. “I remember my mom was there watching.”

They ended the night with a big bucket of KFC and their medals and trophy they were promised.

Aktai has had many new experiences after moving here from Kyrgyzstan, like the yellow school buses, the language, the different types of people, and the list goes on. Sometimes he wishes for the old memories and old life he had back, but he has adapted and made new friends and memories along the way.

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About the Contributor
Taya Blum, Staff Writer
Taya Blum is a staff writer for The Voice and it's her first year. She likes to play a wide variety of video games in her free time, especially Call of Duty. Taya also likes to play softball and she has been playing for 7 years. She is currently on Elgin Impact, 16U. Taya has 5 siblings and enjoys hanging out with them along with her 2 dogs and 9000 year old cat.

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    Candice polleyOct 5, 2023 at 10:21 pm

    Great contribution! Sounds like Aktai has what it takes to make his dreams come true. I know I’m cheering for him!

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