HARLINGEN — In Moscow, Philipp Slivko’s father was worrying about his son.
He thought perhaps Philipp should transfer to a different school.
But Philipp liked the military life at Marine Military Academy so much he convinced his father to let him stay.
“I wanted to stay because I already understood how MMA works and I already had started setting goals,” Philipp said.
“Actually, it was my third or fourth day here I had set a goal to become company commander.”
That was two years ago.
Today, Philipp, a 19-year-old from Moscow, is commander of MMA’s Golf Company of cadets.
He was 15 years old when his parents offered him the opportunity to study in the United States.
At first, he was a little scared.
“I wasn’t ready because I was 15 years old and I didn’t know English,” he said.
But at age 16, Philipp enrolled in The Village School, an international gifted and talented school in Houston, where his grandfather and aunt live.
He says he didn’t have any preconceived ideas, or stereotypes about America. That’s because he has relatives in Houston and Dallas and, as a child, had twice attended summer tennis camps in Texas. But now, it was different.
“I was just having fun here with my aunt as a kid. So I kind of knew about America,” he said.
“But now it was different because now I came for my education and not just to have fun and hang out.”
It was his mother who first heard about MMA. And by August 2014, at age 17, Philipp was flying to Harlingen.
He describes his first few days here as “weird.”
“It was weird because the barrack was a small room. There were two beds and two desks and another kid was already there,” he said.
“It was a little bit weird because it was something new for me. I had never lived like that before.”
But he quickly adjusted and soon came to like the boarding school/military academy life. And as he says, he was soon setting goals for himself.
He likes the discipline, which taught him how to become a leader.
“I think it’s just because when I was back in Russia, I was making a lot of wrong decisions. Here, MMA put me on the right path. I started setting goals and accomplishing them,” he said.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing. I have a plan for my life. I want to be successful and I want to help these kids, show them that if I can do it, they can do it as well.”
Now, he is in charge of 52 cadets.
“I like to help them out and guide them and put them on the right path to improve,” Philipp said.
He says he likes the American culture and intends to stay in Texas to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio and then a master’s in finance at UT Austin.
“I like it here because it seems to me it’s easier to accomplish something here. You have more opportunities here in the United States,” he said.
Asked how America differs from Russia, he said, “I can talk about this forever. But all I’m going to tell you is, it’s two completely different cultures and countries.”
But he did say, “People are more friendly and willing to help you out here in the United States than in Russia.”