By Olga Starovoytova, FLEX student from Ukraine

I can say that most of the experience and goals of the FLEX program I reached through volunteering, that also gave an opportunity to get to know the elements of civil society. I volunteered in the campaign office first and then I worked for Women Crisis Association that was an unforgettable experience and let me understand American communities. I was involved in social activities and gained awareness of American culture, social, political and economic issues. I realize how enormous and beneficial  the impact on the society that volunteering gives us, how it allows to connect with the other people and make the world a better place to live in.

As an example for me to volunteer was my host family’s children , who donated money from their birthdays for keeping the animals  in the zoo and helped the Humane Society and were encouraged to do  that  by their parents. People in America don’t put responsibility on government and believe that they can make a difference, improve their lives and societies.  I have 100 hours of community service by now, but the amount of hours doesn’t stop me from working more, helping others and getting more experience. I’m still looking for new opportunities to volunteer and get more ideas.

Olga, FLEX student from Ukraine, has volunteered over 100 hours in her host community.

My other mission is to introduce and present my own culture and share Ukrainian traditions that also goes very well and gives me a lot of pleasure to do that. My presentation at school opened a new world to my classmates and friends and gave them a chance to see a big difference between lifestyles and cultures. I really enjoy sharing my knowledge with my friends besides presenting the culture while being in America I always welcome my friends to come and visit me in Ukraine in order to see everything with their own eyes.

Appreciation of American culture comes easily with celebration of holidays, immersing into American lifestyle and participating in family traditions. Living in this culture allows me to feel everything I saw only in the movies before. Every holiday is special and absolutely different from what we have, the culture of America is a really big value for the people and is really worth to come and experience.  Living here and learning about the culture now is an amazing memory for the whole lifetime and a good source of knowledge to be taken home and shared with the other people.

The new system of education and the classes it offers is the way to learn about America , the history, economy, foundation of the nation and the government it has. My favorite class is American Government. I see this class as the actual representation of its government; it shows its democratic principles. The class doesn’t only enfold the theory as Ukrainian schools provide it. It implies the expression of students’ ideas and brainstorm thoughts. It opens new ways of learning to me, the methods teachers use are focused on understanding the class not memorizing facts and dates.  I’m involved in debates, speeches, lobbying that is a unique opportunity for me and is impossible to have in my country.

I’m very glad to get to know America in all its aspects. My FLEX goals are not accomplished yet, I’m taking the advantage of time, I’m going to reveal the tremendous challenges.   I hope to find  innovative thoughts and knowledge to carry out and embody in Ukraine.