A bumpy start can't diminish this Ukrainian's school spirit!

Like an American Teen

For the first seconds of my new life, I couldn’t believe that the time had already come. I saw a woman with a poster in her hands and a girl with balloons next to her. It was my host family!

I spent a few days getting used to everything and trying new food. I went to Toledo, Ohio where I met another part of our family and had a family cookout. We also went to a street fair and a German-American festival.

All those activities made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than just being a regular traveler. Living the life of an American teen helped me realize that I'm really in the U.S. and that my dream came true.

A few days thereafter, school started. When I walked inside the huge building, I realized that it was nothing like my school in Ukraine. Many people of different nationalities were rushing around the hall. There was a lot of noise and laughter around me.

I went to the guidance office where a nice lady told me to wait for registration. For the whole three hours I sat there, I thought about classes and imagined how my first day of school would be. Everything was really exciting and awesome in my imagination. But unfortunately it wasn't like that in reality.

I didn't get my schedule for two and a half days, so I followed my host sister to her classes. I was disappointed at being unable to find out in person what being a teen in America was like. Even though I had been to all her classes, it wasn't the same experience.

Once I finally got my schedule, I realized it was quite difficult to find the right classrooms and to understand what teachers were talking about. Everything was really different from Ukrainian schools. Hearing English all day and seeing things done differently caused a little cultural shock. Luckily, I met some really wonderful people who have helped me out with everything and continue to do so. The teachers are also very kind and nice to me.

In the first week, I made a bunch of new friends and now have pretty interesting classes. I have joined the cross country team and tried to improve my running skills even though I'm not a runner, at all (you would understand that very quickly if you saw me running). So, I became the cross country manager. I have also been to a soccer game and a few football games. I'm looking forward to trying more new things!

—Nataliia (FLEX, Ukraine), hosted by the Hunt family (IN)