Fifteen-year-old Daniela Danshyna comes from Kharkiv, the second largest city in the Ukraine with more than 1.4 million people.
Posted on 10/12/17
By Lisa Nowatzki
She lives there with her parents, Sergei and Margarita Danshyna. She came to Langdon on August 24 as part of the Future Leaders Exchange program (FLEX) and lives with Misty and Sierra Berg, who recently moved here from Jamestown.
Danshyna first heard about the FLEX program two years ago. The program wanted future student leaders. Good candidates are students who are self-sufficient and problem solvers who could live without their parents.
“It was my dream to do this program,” she said. Although the program was free, she had to compete with other students. During the first part of the competition, Danshyna had to take an English test and then write several essays. “The essays were the hard part,” she said.
According to Danshyna, the day she was notified that the judges selected her to participate in the FLEX program was the best day of her life. She said that no one could understand how happy she was.
Misty Berg began her journey as a host mom when she responded to an advertisement on Facebook for the American Scandinavian Student Exchange or ASSE. The program is an international exchange student and host family organization that accommodates more than 30,000 high school age students and host families each year.
Danshyna is Berg’s first exchange student. When asked why she wanted to host an a student from the program, Berg replied, “I thought it was a great time to explore someone else’s culture and also have them experience America for the first time.”
“Everything is so completely different, especially the first two days. I was really shocked,” Danshyna explained of her first time in America, “The people are different, rules are different, the houses are different, the streets are different. I was surprised but in a good way.”
Not many people have cars in the Ukraine, according to Danshyna. Traffic congestion makes driving time consuming so most Ukrainians don’t drive. “Cars are very expensive,” she said. She also was shocked and very surprised when she saw teenagers driving. In her country, teens are not allowed to drive until they turn 18.
“I wish I could try to drive here, but it is against the rules,” of the FLEX program. She also cannot go to Canada or any other country, but the program allows her to travel anywhere in the United States.
The FLEX placement organization decides when Danshyna returns home, either in May or June 2018. Since this is her last year of school (Ukrainian students go to school for eleven years, not twelve), she has to take some exams by the middle of June so that she can graduate.
Danshyna is excited for the coming year. She will get to attend two proms, the Langdon High School prom and her high school prom back home.
“Everything is different,” Danshyna says about Langdon schools. In the Ukraine, students do not get to choose which subjects they will take. “We have to learn everything science, math, history, languages; we can’t choose.”
She thinks that the American system of letting students pick the subjects they want to take is better because students learn more. In the Ukraine, students have a different schedule every day. “The schedule sometimes is really confusing,” she said. Though the two schools systems are very different, Danshyna doesn’t think one system is better than the other; they are just different.
Since this is her last year of school, she plans on returning to the Ukraine to go to college for one year. As a condition of the FLEX program, Danshyna must return and spend a couple of years back home before she leaves again. After her program conditions are met, she wants to study abroad, either in Germany or the United States to major in journalism and communication.
Other conditions of the FLEX program deal with cultural exchange. Danshyna must compose and present three projects highlighting different aspects of Ukrainian culture to her classmates here, and when she goes back to the Ukraine, she must do three projects on American culture and share with her classmates there.
On a lighter side, Danshyna shared that she loves American food. “To be honest, it is a problem for me. Hamburgers are my favorite, but they are not very healthy, and I am worried I might gain weight.” She also tried tacos for the first time. “I like it,” she said.
Danshyna feels that she is getting exposed to a lot of American food because her host mom cooks supper every night, and she tries to expose Danshyna to different kinds of American food.
Danshyna has also cooked her grandmother’s chicken rolls stuffed with cheese and butter recipe with spicy potatoes for the Bergs. She also plans on making borscht. The soup is a staple in the Ukraine. “In the Ukraine they say, if a girl can’t cook borscht, then she will not get married.”
Her favorite thing so far, Danshyna responded, is that everyone is so nice, and she likes living in a small town. “I feel safe, and I can relax here,” she said, “I really like it, and I really like that I know a lot of people in town.”
Danshyna has not had time to be home sick yet. She misses her parents and her friends, but she has been too busy to miss anything else.
Host Mom Berg advises that anyone interested in having an exchange student should go to the ASSE website and sign up. No special provisions are required except that each student have their own bed and a small home inspection.