South Korea and Ukraine meet Rapp

For­eign ex­change stu­dents taste life — and peanut but­ter — in ru­ral Amer­ica

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By ava Genho Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

Could you imag­ine, as a ju­nior or se­nior in high school, be­ing tossed into an­other cul­ture and lan­guage half­way around the world — and liv­ing there for a whole year?

Dave Sungchan Wang and Gayla Halina Zolo­tukhina both were faced with this load when they vol­un­teered to be­come for­eign ex­change stu­dents. They both trav­eled long dis­tances to live in Rap­pa­han­nock County and at­tend Rap­pa­han­nock County High School. Learn­ing

about Amer­i­can cus­toms, speak­ing English and ad­just­ing in a new coun­try chal­lenges them and de­mands their at­ten­tion each and ev­ery day.

Dave Wang of South Korea is seven­teen and a se­nior. When asked, he stated that he chose his English name, Dave, af­ter his best friend from Korea sug­gested it. Gayla Zolo­tukhina, only 16 years old, hails from Eastern Ukraine. She is in eleventh grade this year.

For In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent Week, the 4-H film club set out to in­ter­view them about their time spent in the United States.

The first ques­tion that arose dealt with ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences they saw be­tween Amer­ica and their home­land. Dave im­me­di­ately no­ticed one of Rap­pa­han­nock’s unique qual­i­ties — open coun­try and nat­u­ral air — an enor­mous change from the dense cities of South Korea that he’s used to.

He also found a ma­jor dif­fer­ence in the Korean and English lan­guages, but has worked hard and ad­justed well.

Gayla pointed out an­other big dif­fer­ence: Ukrainian and Amer­i­can schools. In her coun­try, school is much more rigid and stu­dents are not per­mit­ted to eat, move around the class­room or doze off, all things that she found com­mon here.

Ukrainian stu­dents are as­signed a sched­ule at the be­gin­ning of the year and have six or seven year long classes in­stead of four blocks each se­mes­ter. Ac­cord­ing to Dave, in Korea schol­ars “go to school at 8 o’clock a.m. and come back at nine p.m. [They] do a lot of study­ing and it’s re­ally dif­fer­ent.”

All these ex­tra hours in school must have given Dave a boost in his ed­u­ca­tion,

“Frankly, my fa­vorite thing here is peanut but­ter,” ex­change stu­dent Gayla Halina Zolo­tukhina said.

for he re­ported that he had pre­vi­ously mas­tered sev­eral sub­jects he is now study­ing at RCHS.

A smile may seem like a uni­ver­sally ac­cepted greet­ing, but Gayla tells oth­er­wise. She said peo­ple in Amer­ica smile at strangers. How­ever, in Ukraine “peo­ple don’t smile with­out rea­son and they say, ‘Why do I need to smile? I don’t have a rea­son to smile.’ Our peo­ple are not so easy-go­ing . . . ”

A world away from their homes, Dave and Gayla have be­come some­what sib­lings as they have both been taken in by a gra­cious fam­ily in Castle­ton. Gayla dis­cov­ered that fam­ily val­ues were an im­por­tant part of both Ukrainian and Amer­i­can tra­di­tions. And when she is home­sick, she longs for com­fort food.

“Oh, food. I miss some food so much,” Gayla raved wist­fully and per­fectly summed up how both of them felt about not hav­ing their fa­vorite dishes nearby. Rice is a sta­ple in South Korea, Dave ex­plained, but is not eaten as much here and he misses it. Gayla craves buck­wheat, borscht and varenyky, a dumpling that is one of Ukraine’s na­tional dishes. Once she cooked varenyky with potato for her host fam­ily, who gob­bled it up.

Last but not least, the film club asked the pair what they liked the best about the United States. Dave re­peated that he loves the “quiet, and the fresh air, and the peo­ple. Amer­ica has a lot of man­ners” and he says he will re­mem­ber all these unique qual­i­ties when he re­turns to South Korea.

Gayla has dis­cov­ered a new, uniquely Amer­i­can fa­vorite treat.

“Frankly, my fa­vorite thing here is peanut but­ter,” Gayla said. “I think when

I go back to Ukraine, I will bring a whole suit­case of peanut but­ter with me . . . peanut but­ter and easy go­ing peo­ple are just like a pledge of hap­pi­ness for me!”

Some­thing as sim­ple as a smile, fan­tas­tic food or be­ing able to con­verse with friends may seem nor­mal and nat­u­ral to most, but for these two young adults, miles away from home and fam­ily, they are grate­ful for the lov­ing com­mu­nity of Rap­pa­han­nock that has been able to re­place the home­town com­forts for which they yearn.

BY DEEDEE SLEWKA

Dave Sungchan Wang of South Korea is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing life in Rap­pa­han­nock County.

BY DEEDEE SLEWKA

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