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Since our arrival in Montenegro over a year and a half ago, Joy has grown and changed significantly. Scared and anxious about leaving her “known” life in the States, she was apprehensive about what she would find when we came. The idea of living in a new country, with a different culture and language was overwhelming to her. How would she be able to go to school? How would she talk to the kids and teachers? How would she learn in another language? She struggled the first several months to make sense of her new life and surroundings. However, in the midst of that struggle she made friends with the kids at school and in our neighborhood. They were kind and patient with her, helping her understand, teaching her the language a little at a time. She was placed with one of the sweetest, most patient teachers ever–Ms. Tamara. She genuinely understood what Joy was going through and worked with her by giving her attainable amounts of homework consisting of Montenegrin, Math, Science, History, Art, and Music. With the help of her tutor, Selma, she worked hard on her assignments, and slowly began to learn it all in the language.  Before long, she was memorizing entire paragraphs in order to prepare for tests.

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She has just completed 5th grade successfully, and has reached an amazing level of proficiency in Montenegrin. (It’s so good, she doesn’t even hesitate to correct us from time to time).  Before the school year was over, she participated in an annual 5-day excursion on the coast with her class. We were so proud of her. Completely immersed in language and relationships, she spent those days deepening her friendships and learning more about Montenegro. She came back all tanned up and with a wonderful experience behind her.

Joy has grown to love Montenegro: it’s language, culture, people, and beautiful nature. It has been a place where her character has been developing and where she has been learning to be content. Ms. Tamara is so proud of her, Selma and her family love her, and her friends at school have accepted her for who she is.  Already missing her friends, she organized a little get-together with a few of them in our home.

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Psychologists say that a child’s personality is formed the first 5 years of his or her life. We lived in Russia during that time period for Joy, and that is where we saw the spunky, funny, family-loving, fearless little girl that she is now in Montenegro.  Her life is an adventure, and she loves living it.