Experience in the states: a Q&A

Experience in the states: a Q&A

Iryna Lyapandra from Ukraine spent the year with the Gebard family as an exchange student. For the past semester she worked on the newspaper staff. She left for Ukraine May 18, and hopes to start college in Canada this fall.

Photo provided by Iryna Lypandara

 The only times I heard that the U.S. is “the most boring place on the Earth” were  from Americans. Believe it or not, but majority of the world would not agree on that. Most teenagers in Ukraine (and I personally before coming here) believe that school lockers and school buses are something extremely cool.

We normally take a lot of things for granted and I’d say Americans really need to appreciate things like being able to take AP classes, being able to drive at such a young age or even school cookies on Tuesday and Thursdays.

This year I, Iryna Lyapandra, received the chance to study at Johnston High School, away from the comfort of family and friends back in Ukraine. 

To share my experience in the United States here is a Q&A with questions about my time here in the United States with some positive and negative experiences. 


What I learned during this year

(positive experience)

Did you know any general knowledge of the U.S.?
I remember the moment when I was taking the survey for my exchange program a year ago. The questions were regarding U.S. economics, politics and just everyday life. Yesterday I received an email where I was asked to take the same survey. I couldn’t believe how much you can unconsciously learn in year without actual “studying.”

Learned to get out of the trouble using my “exchange student status”

Yes, pretending that I just didn’t know something because I’m not from here and that I didn’t understand what people were saying to me extremely helped me out.

Did you know English?

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Photo provided by Kersten Gebard

Yes I’d studied English for 10 years before coming here. Yes, was getting decent grades in English. But a language you learn in your home country is a lot different from a language that native speakers speak. Also, when I was saying something, I used to have to translate word-by-word in my mind which didn’t allow me to speak fast. After two months of being here, I started noticing I was no longer translating everything in my mind and just thinking in English.

What kind of awkward situations did you encounter?

I wish you saw confused faces of people after I’ve said something like dungarees instead of overalls or sneakers instead of tennis shoes. I even learned how to get out of situations by using my “exchange student status”.

How was it meeting new people?

In Ukraine I didn’t meet new people very often, while here I meet new people every day. The “process” of getting to know someone became much easier and takes me less time to get comfortable with a person.




What I struggled with

(negative experience)


How was homesickness?

It comes and goes away very suddenly, resulting in extreme mood swings.

What was it like not knowing anyone?

It didn’t sound too scary to me when I was in Ukraine, but once I got off of the plane, I realized I didn’t know anyone here, even the people I lived with. Some people even believed I didn’t know any English, so  they would being to talk to me slowly and act as though they were saying syl-la-bles of the words.

A lot of good, new food

And thus a lot of extra pounds gained during the exchange year.


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Questions you will constantly be asked if you are an exchange student


Wow, you have an accent, where are you from?

Do you have Iphones/cars/*insert anything that is everywhere*?

Hey, can you speak with American accent? well, that’s what I’ve been trying to do all time I’ve been here.

Do you like it here?

Say something in your language! “Say “I hate you”” was the most common for some reason…

Do you miss your family?

Hey, what does this text say? (when someone sees notifications on my phone)


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