WORTHINGTON — For one Worthington student, this school year is fulfilling what has been a long-held dream.

Ilgaz Biber has described everything about her experience in the United States as a “surprise” since her mid-August arrival.

“Everything is different,” said the 16-year-old exchange student from Turkey, who's living with the Jim and Sue Johnson family.

Life in Worthington has been a big adjustment for the teenager from one of Turkey’s larger cities, Istanbul, which has a population of about 15 million people.

“It’s a small town, but it’s really good,” Biber said about Worthington. “I like it. For one year, it’s good.”

Feeling as though her opportunity is limited in Turkey, Biber hopes that an exchange program to the U.S. will better prepare her for a career in industrial design.

So far she’s enjoying all the American education system has to offer, which includes the freedom to choose many of her own classes with her career goals in mind. That's something that’s not an option in Turkey.

Another difference she’s noticed between the American education system and Turkey’s is that American teachers seem more interested in hearing a student’s explanation of their answer given, rather than every question on an exam or assignment either being simply correct or incorrect.

She also enjoys the opportunity to learn about many different cultures she said are present throughout the U.S.

Biber is also enjoying extracurricular activities offered with the school district. She will compete with the school’s varsity jazz and high kick teams. She brings many years’ experience on Turkey’s national rhythmic gymnastics team, on which she competed until injuring her back at the top of her career. She turned to dance after the career-ending injury.

Biber also competed on the school’s cross country team in the fall.

Although she’s been studying English since the first grade, Biber said she was very nervous about communicating in the language. Her fears have subsided in the two months she has been in Worthington, and she feels more comfortable and confident in her ability.

“If two months is like that, how am I going to be at the end of the year?” Biber wondered about her English ability.

Biber said she’d like to visit California before returning to Turkey.