Foreign exchange students from Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine are currently being exposed to life in the U.S. by living with East students. While staying with their host families, they are also being shown around the city. The group of ten, which includes one teacher, arrived in Kansas City on Jan. 13 and is leaving tomorrow.
The students wrote an essay and filled out an application provided by the U.S. embassies in their countries to be accepted into the trip, in which they will stay in the U.S. for three weeks. They first arrived in Reno, NV on Jan. 7 and are visiting Washington, D.C. for five days after Kansas City.
“We were [in Reno] for five days,” exchange chaperone Maiya Daronina said. “Building our leadership skills, team building skills and getting acquainted because we had never seen each other before.”
While the program is mainly intended to teach the kids leadership and speaking skills, there are other, more nuanced reasons.
“We came here to prove that children and students from such countries like Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine have the same right to change something in our community,” Ukranian student Georgiy Solodko said. “We came here to get experience on how to improve our countries.”
East families volunteered to host one student at their house during their stay. The families were tasked with giving the students the full American experience. This meant classic hamburgers at Winstead’s, holding puppies at PetLand and visiting tomato farms. The most iconic experience was an East basketball game, complete with cheerleaders and a fan-filled student section.
“In Moldova, they don’t have like school spirit, you just go to school to go to school,” junior host Eli Kurlbaum said. “[Foreign exchange student Hordii] Shkuropat said that his school is called School Number 12.”
While American experiences were entertaining, they were as fleeting as they were entrancing. Overall, the students hope to leave a lasting impression about their small countries on the Americans they meet and gain insight into how they can improve their own countries from leadership skills they have learned here.
“I hope to teach everyone here to tell about Belarus, about our mentality, about our way of life,” Daronina said. “I’d like American students to know about the country, our independence, how we struggle and fight to be independent in this world.”