Life in the U.S. / Thank You Thursdays

Thank You Thursday – Olya from Ukraine

For this week’s Thank You Thursday, Olya from Ukraine shares her experience of studying in Washington State with the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program sponsored by the Department of State. When submitting her story, Olya added: “I am not going to lie, even this small article made me sad, because of overwhelming thoughts about going back to home, and losing connection with people here.” Olya was initially selected for the 20/21 FLEX program but had to defer due to COVID-19. She couldn’t be more thankful for being able to finally live her American Dream this school year!

I was 14 when I decided that I want to turn my life upside down and become an exchange student. I won the FLEX scholarship when I was 15. And here I am, sitting on the couch of my American host family, living my dream life and writing this piece. I am 17, and I’m across the ocean from my family.

Olya’s host brothers, Jacob and Ethan, and her host mom, Trish, welcoming Olya at the airport

Exchange year became a whole life in a life, it’s not just a chapter of the book, it’s a huge story inside of the story of my life. A story that builds my character, a story that makes me stronger, more resilient, and persistent every day. This narration isn’t ideal, it’s not a fairytale or Netflix movie. It’s full of hardships, and obstacles, but all of them are a part of history. Wonderful unique history, that is built by ourselves. It’s hard sometimes to get out of your comfort zone 24/7, try again and again when it feels like everything is down when everything feels like it would be easier if you gave up and went to the homeland. But the high price of your effort pays back.

(left) Olya and her host brothers after their football game and (right) making cinnamon rolls for Christmas Eve

It’s all about the people that surround you. I wake up every morning excited for a new day full of adventures. I try to enjoy and remember every single thing to leave it in my memories. Football games, night rides, trying new things, discovering new places, magazine production, Christmas, Halloween, swimming in the mesmerizing lakes, school days, dancing on the beach and under the rain, and so so much more adorable immortal episodes are running through my mind.

Tinatin from the Republic of Georgia, Olya’s host mom, Trish, and Olya excited for the football game to start

Despite how tiring it can be to be an exchange student, I will never regret my choice. I’m incredibly happy to laugh at the dining table with my awesome host siblings, play games with my host mum at night, get to know funny words because of my host dad, drive all over the town with my friends, scream at the football and basketball games, take thousands of pictures of things that amaze me, and never take the smile off my face. An exchange year is the best possible thing that has ever happened to me.

– Olya from Ukraine

Olya (left) with her friends at her school’s White Out football game

Would you like to welcome a student like Olya to your home and heart this upcoming school year? Check out the profiles of our amazing 2022/23 students!