Anastasiya Mashtalyar, 16, is a native of Zaporizhia, Ukraine, who is now going to Britton-Hecla High School. Her host mother is Kristin Bennett.
Q. What are your parents' names and what do they do for a living?
A. Mum: Elena Mashtalyar, an editor; dad: Victor Mashtalyar, a miner.
Q. What has been your biggest surprise about life in the U.S.?
A. I think the biggest surprise about life in the U.S. was the school. It's much easier to study in America, but sports are much more developed here. And school life is full with sports events, which is amazing. In my country, sport isn't (such an) important part of school life, unfortunately. That's why it was new for me to see big teams, and the whole community cheering actively.
Q. How do you compare the education you receive in your home country to your school here?
A. I need to (note) that systems are working completely different. Back in Ukraine, I had different classes every day, lasting 70 minutes each plus a 5 minute break between periods. But in the U.S. I have the same classes every day and it's weird for me that they're lasting for 51 minutes each (why not 50?). And as I said before, for me, it's easier to study in States than in Ukraine.
Q. How is the food different here?
A. Food is a good question. Honestly, food is much, much healthier in my country. I have never (counted) calories in Ukraine, as I do here, because all (these) sweety-spicy delicious things which I tried here can make you big. The nice thing about American food is that there is no specifically American food, but there are millions of places where you can try Mexican (or) Chinese food...This fact confirms an enormous American diversity.
Q. Are there any other differences between the U.S. and your home country?
A. I'm sure the first thing each Ukrainian (is excited about is) American roads. When I personally saw them, I remembered the words I believe I can fly from R Kelly's song. Everybody detests Ukrainian roads, because they are the worst in Europe...So, probably, you imagine how much I was (excited) when I saw perfect runways. It was like: Oh, my Gosh, these roads must have gone to the heaven!
Another conspicuous thing, which I noticed right when the car stopped and I was starting to meet new people was SMILING AMERICANS! Optimistic, friendly, helpful, but smiling 24 hours per day! It was so strange for me. Of course in Ukraine people smile, but not at the school, work, street, shop. It looks like you are crazy or you are high if you act like this. But after three weeks in this society, I understood that people here are pretty wealthy and they don't care about small salaries, bad living conditions and high prices, like Ukrainians do. I think, most of Americans go to the job firstly because they enjoy it and secondly to make money, unlike in my motherland. So, here nothing stops people from smiling and the most brilliant thing is that this smile-happy disease is spreading like wildfire, so I have already caught it. Smile.
The third great difference between Ukraine and America is relationships. In this case, I can say that most of the Ukrainians men will open the door before women, pay for her on the date, and help to take heavy bags to the car. While Ukrainian women have all conditions to make men feel that they are real knights, heads of families, protectors for tiny women, we don't like (it) when men cook and help us in the house. Mostly mothers bring children up, when fathers earn money and organize fun vacations for the family.
There are some differences in pupil-teacher relationships also. In my country, (a) student can't call teacher (by) his surname, can't have (friendly) relationship with him and there is certain scary respect, which (doesn't) allow student and teacher be too close. But it is general picture and there is exception in each rule.
Not everything is in common in the way friendship goes in our countries. In Ukraine, people can have from 1 to 10 best friends with whom they have a lifelong friendship. We ask our friend for advice and help, we relay them our secrets, we need them and the main thing - we forgive our friends. But Americans, as I have already seen, surround themselves with soapy bubbles, which help them to protect their own area from treachery, lie, cheating, which intimates can bring to our lives. It's more securely for you guys to have many acquaintances and one true friend. It happens because the better part of my nation is above-board and they don't hesitate to open their souls for other people, as Americans do.
Q. What has been the most fun since you got here?
A. I (enjoyed) cross country season so much. My school have a great team and I was a part of it, which made my first months in the U.S. so great.
Q. What do you miss about your home country?
A. I can't say that I miss exactly something from home, I have too many new impressions. So generally I miss the feeling of protection which your motherland gives you. Pretty much that's it.
Q. What did you expect from your stay in the U.S.?
A. I came here to change myself, so by the end of this year I expect to find the answers for questions (that are) worrying me and decide what to do in future.
Q. Is there anything you would like to add?
A. I think this year is going to be one of the best in my life. And it already is!
If you're interested in hosting a foreign exchange student call Vickie Moser of Leola at 605-439-3656.