Exchange students share their stories


POSTED: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Students with the FLEX program share their thoughts after having spent a year in Hawaii.

Kateryna Zhupanova
Ukraine, Dniprodzerzhynsk

On April 6, 2008, I was called and told about the FLEX program Finalist status. At that time, I was just expecting the trip to the USA, and I couldn’t even dream about going to Hawaii. And I hadn’t found out that I was going here ...  until one week before my flight was actually scheduled!!!

What do people know about Hawaii back in Ukraine? Pineapples, hula, Pacific, paradise resort? That’s pretty much it. So, I opened a map — looked at those tiny little dots in the middle of nowhere — and said: “There’s a problem. The place is cut off from the world, and IS SURROUNDED BY WATER!!! And I CAN’T SWIM!!!” Well, things change. Now I can swim!

I consider Hawaii to be my second home. It wasn’t hard to adapt to a family of intelligent scientists, to a super cool private school, and, obviously, to a marvelous island of Oahu which dispels all the stereotypes about the inability of nature and civilization to coexist in harmony. And all these sincere smiles, hugs, “aloha” and “mahalo,” this warm aura of happiness and meaning, the incredible ocean, the beautiful streets of Honolulu — I totally love my life.

Seeing a place in the movie, going there as a tourist, or living there for a year can be completely opposite things. However, describing how Hawaii differs from Ukraine would be a very long and hard thing to do. Among the other things, there is a great one in common — people’s emotions, views and behaviors are mostly the same across the planet Earth, and, out of many we, in fact, are one!

In addition to studying at school and having fun in and outside it, I also learned a huge amount of actually significant things. One of them is that a determined, self-reliant, and hopeful person can make a difference in this world. Now that I saw how things can change, how important it is to be devoted to the matter one is involved in, and how much work still has to be done in my native country, I surely do want to act.

And I will, because not only I learned a lot of applicable skills, but also got an immense amount of support and expectations from the people I’ve met while being in the U.S., and their mental support will help me to carry out those seemingly impossible plans. Yes, life is sometimes unfair. Yes, no one is perfect, and sometimes the differences between people (which are, once again, are, as a matter of fact, diminutive) might stand on the way to development. But there is always a change for the best, and it’s up to each of us to work in order to see that change happening. I think that this belief is the most valuable souvenir I will bring with me to Ukraine.

Leen Al Yaman

I am an exchange student from Lebanon. When I first knew that I got the scholarship I did not know where my placement was. A week before we left Lebanon to the U.S., I received a letter that said I am placed in Hawaii.

The first reaction was a shock: All of my friends wanted to trade places with me just because I was coming to Hawaii. Before I came here all the things I heard about Hawaii was the beach, the volcanoes, and Lilo and Stitch. But Hawaii as I experienced it is a lot more than that.

Being an exchange student and under the wings of the International Hospitality Center gave me the privilege to see Hawaii from a different perspective and to experience the real Hawaiian lifestyle. Because of all the activities a person can do in Hawaii, my life has completely changed. I was not into sports at all, but who can come to Hawaii and not paddle or surf or even hike? I went pretty much on every hike there is in Oahu. Whenever I went on a hike it felt as if I am walking the stairs of my life; at first it is easy, it gets harder as you go higher, and once you get to the peak you feel like nothing else mattered. Truly the feeling is rewarding and the view is amazing.

But the best part about being in Hawaii was the ohana or family. It is incredible how people treat each other as family members in Hawaii and love each other. And every time you talk about Hawaii you got to mention the shaka, the shave ice and hula, which I am pretty good at even though I never heard of the hula before. I am truly blessed to be here, and now that the year is almost over I am not ready to leave my new home; a lot of things I still want to do but living here is an unforgettable experience.

Sayeda Tehniyat Bukhari

For an exchange student, Hawaii becomes an extraordinarily different place. When you are an exchange student, doors of opportunities open themselves. The legislative internship for exchange students is an educational roller-coaster ride, something being a tourist one could never experience.

In Hawaii, I have done things I wouldn’t even have dreamt of as a tourist. If there is something I am never going to forget, this is definitely one of them. I actually had a lot of fun doing it.

An exchange has to be two-way. So, I gave a presentation to my class about my home country, Pakistan. One can truly create bridges of understanding!

Hawaiian culture is very unique in its practices and differs greatly from my country back home. I took hula lessons here from the kumus and I can say that it enriched my experience further more. The enchanting stories of Hawaiians and the different elements of the culture is something I couldn’t ever have known back home.


Host families needed

AYUSA International, a nonprofit youth exchange organization, is looking for host families in Hawaii for students from abroad who have won scholarships to study in the United States.

The high school students will be arriving in July, or later, for an academic year or semester in an effort to promote international understanding.

“We have 25 students who are approved to come who are still awaiting host families,” said Angela Neumann, community representative for AYUSA in Hawaii. The students were selected based on their academic merit and personal character through the following programs:

»The Future Leaders Exchange program involves students from countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

»The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange involves students from Germany.

»The Youth Exchange and Study program involves students from countries with large Muslim populations.

The students will come to Hawaii with medical insurance, spending money and a good command of English. Host families are asked to provide a loving home, meals and sleeping quarters, either shared or private. Students pay for other personal expenses.

For more information on how to host or be an exchange student, please contact Neumann at 392-4009 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).