Some of you may remember my 26 April 2007 post about Oksana, my Ukrainian student who was chosen to study in the U.S. for a year. Well, here's an update.
Oksana has been at Spalding University in Louisville, KY since September. She has a few months to go in her study abroad experiences. She has taken really interesting classes, participated in college life as her Residence Hall's treasurer, and has volunteered in two local schools.
A few days ago Oksana came to visit me for her Spring Break. We toured around Monterey and San Francisco. Her friends in Louisville had warned her that CA was like another country. When she landed in the sunny 70 degree weather (on a day when 10 inches of snow fell in Louisville) and saw flowers blooming everywhere, she decided her friends were right.
We took Oksana hiking at Point Lobos and we took her to an International Women's Day event put on by the United Nations Association of Monterey. We wore our Ukrainian embroidered shirts and ate a variety of food from different cultures at the potluck.
While she was here, Oksana also tried Japanese food, Mexican food, and Indian food. Everything she tried, she liked.
We took her to the Monterey Aquarium where we saw some very playful sea otters, and some colorful jellyfish.
We went to a Russian friend's house to celebrate the end of Winter and the arrival of Spring. There, Oksana had the opportunity to talk to Russian speakers from many former Soviet Republic countries, and even another Ukrainian girl! We ate blinchiki (crepes) with different toppings and enjoyed the company.
Finally, we went to San Francisco and saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, Chinatown and the Ferry Building. Oksana had only seen the bridge in movies, and couldn't believe how huge it was in person. She also commented on how everyone in SF is so different from each other.
Oksana gave us a reason to play "tourist" and get out of the house and see the sights. While I greatly enjoyed our outings, what I will treasure most are our conversations. I was continually amazed at how much her English has improved and what a changed person she has become. She expresses her opinions thoughtfully, and is not afraid to disagree with people. She is questioning the world around her, and making insightful comparisons to life in Ukraine. She has worked so hard and deserves all of the successes that I know are headed her way.
Today Oksana is touring the Grand Canyon. When I visited her at her parents' house in their small Ukrainian village, she told me it was her dream to see the Grand Canyon. She didn't know why, but it's the place she always hoped she would be able to see. Today she will see it. Just another check mark on her long list of accomplishments...
What's next, Oksana?