Isabella is in 10th grade. This is her first year in Journalism. She is on the Debate team and likes to draw. A fun fact about her is that she has two...
Ukrainian Student Experiences Life in America
February 21, 2023
You may have noticed some new faces at the beginning of the school year, but one that you’ve probably never seen before comes all the way from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. Exchange student Anastasiia Pupyrina, known by some as Stacy, moved to Virginia in late August. She is a part of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program which is a competitive, merit-based scholarship. Thousands of students in Europe and Asia compete for a spot every year and only around one in fifty get scholarships.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, FLEX operates in over 20 countries and according to the website, was created to “ensure long-lasting peace and mutual understanding between the U.S. and the countries of Eurasia.”
The program gives young people the ability to learn and experience the U.S. firsthand while teaching Americans about their own countries. The scholarship is difficult to receive and involves multiple rigorous rounds of testing. Applicants also need to demonstrate that they have the ability to adapt and thrive in a completely new environment.
The end of the application process involves finding a host family. Applicants provide information about themselves, while the families who have volunteered to host then use this informatioin to select a student to host. The students do not get to choose exactly where they will get to live, but they usually get placed in rural or suburban areas like Fluvanna.
Pupyrina says that there are many pros and cons to being an exchange student. She says it is hard to express herself in English because people often misinterpret what she is meaning, and sometimes she misunderstands what is being said. She notes that the language barrier is a trial and error process, but that she enjoys attending FCHS and the chance she has been given to experience an entirely different country.
“Without this program, I never would’ve been able to come here,” she said.
Pupyrina says that Ukraine is quite different from America, especially in regards to schooling. She says that things are taught in an entirely different way in her country, including major differences in the schedule. For example, she said that at her school in Ukraine, students have 24 blocks in a year, and take seven or eight classes daily with the classes changing everyday, like the A and B days we have here at Fluvanna. There are also more electives in Ukraine and no sports in schools, except volleyball and soccer, though that depends on the school. Pupyrina said she is joining the FCHS tennis team this season and was on the track team for awhile. When she first arrived in the U.S. she really wanted to be a cheerleader, but because the process to become one started over the summer she didn’t get the chance to participate in that sport.
Pupyrina’s family still lives in Ukraine and although she says the war with Russia there is “horrible,” it is something she has become used to. She explained that if her family moved out of Ukraine or even just to a safer part of the country, then they would still lose their jobs and home, so she stays in close contact with her family all the time through apps like Telegram and Instagram.
“Before the war I did not realize how strong our nation was,” she said, noting that she believes that Ukraine will ultimately win the conflict with Russia. She is excited for the day when the fighting is over and she says she imagines that people will go into the streets and celebrate. She added that if she meets another Ukrainian, they become instant friends because she knows they are united through their struggles and experiences.
Pupyrina says she has many hobbies, including aerial silks, a type of performance where a gymnast performs acrobatics like flips in the air while hanging from a column of fabric. “It gives me the feeling of freedom, and it helps me encourage myself,” she said. Her other interests include digital drawing and learning new languages. Pupyrina already speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English, German, and her favoite language is French which she decided to learn after watching the show Miraculous: The Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir.
Another one of her interests is photography. She is currently taking Photography at FCHS and enjoys taking photos in and out of school. She also uses her Tik Tok and other social media accounts to teach people about the FLEX program and share how she learned English. She will be returning to Ukraine after the school year ends in May.