“You have to try to know what you can do.”
It’s a motto 16-year-old Julia, a foreign exchange student from Ukraine, has lived by.
“It’s what my mother and father have always said.”
Julia, who asked that her last name not be published, is halfway through her time studying in America. She says she’s here “by accident” after attending an exchange program selection with her friends back home.
“It’s a really popular competition in Ukraine. I knew the name, but hadn’t heard much about it. People usually prepare months or years in advance for this. Some never get accepted.”
But Julia did. She received her placement in May 2015 and was Bossier City bound in August.
The first week was a complete culture shock, Julia said. It was the first time she had been away from home for more than a week…let alone in a different country.
“My English has improved so much since I got here. I’ve had a lot of help from my host family and school.”
Eliska Hamilton, local exchange student program coordinator, said it wasn’t so much a rough week as it was an adjustment.
“She had a week to relax and get ready for Airline,” Hamilton said. “She was so nervous. I’ve never seen anyone adjust so quickly though. She really has a lot going for her.”
Julia said she loves being at Airline High School. She experienced her first football game in the fall, has learned a lot about American and Louisiana history and she’s the first foreign exchange student to be part of the yearbook staff.
“It’s awesome. The teachers are great. School is more fun here than it is in Ukraine,” she said.
Julia has been chosen to participate in the Civic Education Workshop for foreign exchange students this spring. It’s quite an honor, considering she’s one of 20 students selected to participate in this program out of more than 300 students. The honor includes a trip to Washington D.C. in March.
She’s looking forward to “everything” about it – seeing the national monuments and memorials, meeting more exchange students, visiting Capital Hill and the Newseum, an interactive museum of news and journalism.
It’s one of many trips she will take during her final months in America. Julia and her host family will be taking enrichment trips, which are a program requirement, all over Louisiana and parts of Texas.
Julia will head back to the Ukraine in June. She plans to stay in touch with her host family and friends at Airline. She said she is “for sure” coming back to America one day.
“I want to go home and see my family and friends then come back here. I have to finish my senior year over there first. I have enjoyed everything I’ve had here. I may have to take my family some of the spices you cook with here.”
Until she leaves, she hopes to maintain her grades and reach 100 hours of community service. Her ultimate dream, though, is attend a Justin Bieber concert.
“It was because of him that I started learning English,” Julia said.
Not only is she happy for the opportunity to live and study in America, but she has discovered her love for Ukraine is far greater than she ever imagined.