So Far Away, Yet So Close…

NCHS Ukrainian exchange student Maksym Kuzhdin helps to facilitate a Skype conversation between his NCHS Classmates, TOP, and his classmates from school back home in Ukraine, BELOW.

By Alex Haglund

Despite a geographic gulf of thousands of miles, on the morning of Thursday, March 1, a group of students from NCHS and another from a school in Ukraine were only a few feet apart, thanks to technology.

Ukrainian NCHS exchange student Maksym Kuzhdin played the role of go-between for the NCHS students, who gathered in the auditorium with Media Center Director Leigh Ann Cloud during Best period, and the Ukrainian students, gathered after school at Kuzhdin’s school in his home country.

While Kuzhdin did clarify some of the communications between the two groups, he was expecting to act as a translator and when they connected via Skype, a number of English-speaking Ukrainian students took over on that end and the discussion proceeded organically from there.

While many of the details of the lives of high schools in the US and Ukraine are different, there are far more similarities between the students, particularly in terms of motivations, attitude and mannerisms, than there are differences.

One entertaining subject for both groups was some of the stereotypes that the two groups had about one another. For instance, the Ukrainian students, laughing and looking embarassed when it was brought up (once they were face-to-face with their American counterparts), was that Americans ate nothing but fast food and were fat loudmouths.

For their part, the U.S. students asked the Ukrainians if they really drank vodka constantly and related that they (mostly) thought that they were Russians. Kuzhdin stated that as a country that had been taken over by the Russians, he and many Ukrainians viewed them as foreign invaders and people who would try to erase Ukrainian culture and history, and didn’t particularly like being confused with them.

Despite the discussion of sterotypes though, for the most part, the main driver behind the questions and discussions was just honest curiosity – both ways.

“Do Americans really get their drivers’ licenses at 16 years old?”

“How cold is it there? What’s that in Farenheit?”

“What does college cost there/what are your plans after high school?”

Both groups of students seemed to greatly enjoy the exchange and Cloud stated that if it wasn’t interfering with class time, she had no issues at all with them continuing the conversation at a future date if they wished to.